The dust kicked up by federal judges’ political redistricting of Kansas has settled down to the precinct level.
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said her office is being forced to draw up about 50 new election precincts because of the political boundaries.
Federal judges stepped in to draw new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts in the state after the Legislature failed to do so.
Now Lehman and her staff, which includes some extra temp help, are sorting things out and trying to come up with new detailed precinct maps.
“It’s pretty complicated and very time-consuming,” she said.
A precinct is basically a neighborhood or part of a neighborhood defined for political purposes. Your precinct determines where you vote.
Election officials have gone precinct by precinct to determine whether precincts have been moved, have been split or remain the same.
In those that have been split, Lehman’s office has to take a street-level view and go house by house in some areas. They are finding cases where a house on one side of the street is in a different precinct from a house on the other side, she said.
One precinct in Derby, for example, jumps across a street, picks up a single house, then jumps back across the street, she said. Derby could have as many as seven new precincts.
“We really have to look at the exact detail,” Lehman said. “The issues in Wichita, we’re just beginning to dive into.”
Lehman estimated it will take at least a couple of weeks, maybe longer, to determine the new precincts. Then her office will update them in its voter registration database, notify voters, and update the GIS election maps on the county’s website.
Some newly split precincts won’t have any committeemen or committeewomen on the ballot. Lehman said it is normal to have some precincts where people don’t file for those spots, but this time there will be more open precincts than usual.
Candidates who already have filed for precinct committee posts will automatically be filed in their new precincts, she said.
Lehman said the county had expected to make some changes in its precincts no matter who drew the new district maps. But the judges’ boundaries have added to the challenge.
“It does seem there’s some that are particularly bad and are going to be difficult to deal with,” she said.
The delayed process hasn’t given her office much time to do its job. It is only six days from a deadline to mail ballots to overseas voters. So they are making precincts of registered overseas voters a priority, Lehman said.
She said she hopes there won’t be any voters who have to go to new polling locations. That would happen only if a site has to deal with more than 10 precincts on Election Day. The machines that scan paper ballots can only handle that many precincts, Lehman said.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep them at the same polling location,” she said of voters. “I think we’ll be able to find ways to make it work.”