Round and round they go

Redistricting saga is an embarrassment

By Walt Braun

We took state Sen. Roger Reitz to task in February for supporting a congressional redistricting proposal that would have shifted Manhattan into the 1st District.

He was convinced that Kansas would be best served if lawmakers resolved their redistricting conflicts and moved on to other issues. Among issues he cited were school finance reform, tax reform and medical issues.

All of those still await resolution in large part because of the Legislature’s inability to agree on constitutionally mandated redistricting maps. With the regular session nearing its scheduled end, legislators are still going round and round on maps outlining the state’s four congressional districts, 40 Senate districts and 125 House districts.

Lawmakers can come up with plenty of reasons —every last one of which helps or hurts one party or candidate or one part of the state — but they have no excuse. Their maneuvering has given Kansas the distinction of being the last state in the Union to settle redistricting conflicts.

A recent Senate attempt to redraw its own districts bumped one Riley County candidate, Bob Reader, from just feet outside the 22nd District to just feet inside it. That’s ridiculous. The House, for other reasons, rejected that map.

Also ridiculous is expecting Mr. Reader and other candidates and would-be candidates to stand by indefinitely while legislators decide which district they end up in. If the maps are not completed by May 10 — that’s a week from today and just a day before the last day of the regular session — the Legis-lature’s ineptitude will push the filing deadline for candidates back from June 1 to June 11.

If there is reason for even cautious optimism, it’s that a Senate committee Wednesday unanimously approved a congressional redistricting map; to its credit , it would leave Manhattan and Riley County in the 2nd District. Among its vulnerabilities is that it could be sidelined in the House, where Speaker Mike O’Neal’s goals are said to include weakening Democratic strongholds.

Such partisan calculations — and they’re hardly limited to the House Speaker — only weaken Kansans’ sense that the people they send to Topeka to take care of the citizens’ business are preoccupied with political games.

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