Wrangling stalls effort to re-map

By Bill Felber

An area member of the committee redistricting Kansas House districts affirmed Friday that she expects the two Manhattan-based House districts to shrink when new legislative maps are finalized. Despite an effort to draft House maps by the weekend, the shape and extent of that shrinkage remained up in the air Saturday.

State Rep. Sharon Schwartz, a Republican from Washington who represents the 106th District, offered that forecast at the conclusion of a week in which committee members tried but failed to finalize a first draft of a new map. They took their ideas home with them for the weekend, resolving to resume deliberations Monday.

Schwartz said “a pretty good map” existed at one point Friday, but it was sidetracked as “everybody tried to tweak, and some tried to redraw” those boundaries. She said her “gut” is that “we’re going to end up with a map similar to what we started with,” but she acknowledged the situation remains fluid.

House members are redrawing legislative boundaries based on results of the 2010 census. Members of the state Senate are doing the same thing on their side of the aisle. And the full redistricting committee is simultaneously tackling the larger and more politically charged task of redrawing congressional boundaries for the state’s four districts.

The two districts that split Manhattan, Rep. Sydney Carlin’s 66th District and Rep. Susan Mosier’s 67th District, both must lose territory because of population increases within their districts. Both have about 2,000 more constituents than would be viewed as statistically ideal.

One focus regarding Mosier’s district has involved dropping the boundary for Schwartz’s 106th District down below U.S. 24, its current southern edge. While the Mosier and Carlin districts both need to lose population, Schwartz’s district — which is contiguous with Mosier’s — needs to gain about 3,000. Those facts make the portion of Mosier’s district between the city and Riley – Leonardville a potential target for reassignment.

Merely moving Grant Township, with its population of about 975 largely along Tuttle Creek, from the 67th into the 106th would help balance both districts. Another 600 voters could be shifted if Wildcat Township were also moved. The relocation of Manhattan Township 1 would shift an additional 600.

Those three steps, however, could also have the unintended consequence of shifting the geographical if not the philosophical balance of power in Schwartz’s district. It would raise the Riley County portion of her district to nearly 5,700, giving Schwartz virtually as many constituents in this county as there are in her home county of Washington (5,799).

For her part, Schwartz advises against jumping to early conclusions. “Nothing is set in stone,” she said.

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