Close to two months ago, we wrote about the problems facing the redistricting committees in the Kansas House and Senate. It had the opportunity to be an issue that was easily settled.

Close to two months ago, we wrote about the problems facing the redistricting committees in the Kansas House and Senate. It had the opportunity to be an issue that was easily settled.

While there are still some issues to be worked out on the Senate redistricting side, the focus has been directed largely at the congressional redistricting work. Unlike the state chambers, it should theoretically be much easier to redraw the congressional lines, since there are only four districts, not 40 like in the state Senate, nor 125 in the state House. How wrong that view has proven to be.

In short, the First District (largely western and north-central Kansas) is too small and needs to gain territory to be within the ideal size for a district. The Third District (Kansas City metro area) is too big and needs to lose territory and population. The Second District, mostly eastern Kansas not including Kansas City, will have to ebb and flow accordingly given its spot between the First and Third districts. The Fourth District mostly consists of Wichita and nearby counties.

The Senate, typically a more moderate voice in the state, approved a plan that unites Lawrence into one district — the Second — and moves Manhattan into the First District. It also adds a few counties west of Wichita into the Wichita-centric Fourth District. Fifteen Senate Republicans voted for the bill, and 17 voted against it.
In essence, the more conservative branch of the Republican party is staunchly against this idea. But rather than fight this moderate view, it may be wiser for the more conservative branch to concede the issue.

Because in order to fight that plan, which can be described in two sentences and doesn’t dramatically alter the existing districts, the alternative proposals have been wacky to the point of disbelief.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, only gave up this week a plan that would have done the same thing to Kansas City that he doesn’t want to do to Manhattan. In essence, it would have pushed Kansas City, Kan., into the same district as Garden City. That was a plan that neither western Kansas nor Kansas City liked.

Another map, proposed by Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, was even worse. Her plan kept Lawrence, Manhattan and Topeka together, but instead shifted Pittsburg and Baxter Springs in with Wichita, although Fredonia and Erie were left out. It also would have moved several counties that neighbor Wichita into the western First District. Fortunately, that map was defeated this week, 76-48.

If the goal is to protect Manhattan, then these alternative maps probably do that. But saving Manhattan at the cost of Kansas City or southeast Kansas as a regional whole are not trade-offs worth making.

These maps and ideas aren’t particularly new, as we talked about them two months ago. Wee had hoped that two months later, something would be different. We had hoped that conservative House Republicans could at least settle on a plan that wasn’t even more extreme than the plan they were fighting. Instead, two months later, we have little progress. O’Neal has pledged to work on a new plan next week.

We suggest he should just work on passing the Senate plan. While no redistricting plan will make everyone happy, the Senate plan is the least drastic, least unbelievable, least problematic plan officially on the table. If O’Neal had a better plan than the one he dropped or the other alternatives, wouldn’t it have been brought up by now?

There is no doubt to us that moving Manhattan into the First District is the lesser of many evils. For two months, little has changed, and it’s time the issue was properly settled so the Legislature can move on to other issues. And the best way to do that would be for conservative House Republicans to settle for the Senate plan.

The Morning Sun