The Kansas House was wise to reverse course Wednesday and reject a congressional redistricting map that it had approved the day before.
That map would have moved Harvey, Kingman and Harper counties and much of Butler County out of the 4th District and into the 1st District. It then extended the 4th District to the state’s southeast corner.
That makes no sense. Butler, Harvey, Kingman and Harper counties are closely linked to Sedgwick County, as many of their citizens work and shop in Wichita. These counties also have forged close economic development ties through the Regional Economic Area Partnership.
“The people who live, work, and raise their families in Harper, Kingman, and Harvey counties and in towns like El Dorado, Augusta, and Newton share many of the same values and concerns – we work together,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s senseless to divide these folks’ representation so haphazardly, and I hope the process will not break up this community and that people will voice their discontent to their representatives in Topeka.”
Southeast Kansas has also worked together as a region on political and economic issues. The House plan would have split that region between the 4th and the 2nd districts.
The House’s congressional map will now go back to committee.
A much more sensible redistricting approach is the bipartisan map approved by the Kansas Senate that moves Manhattan to the 1st District. Though Manhattan officials want to stay in the 2nd District, Manhattan and Kansas State University, with its agriculture programs, could be a good fit with the “Big First.”
Thankfully, the House also rejected a map that would have moved Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County into the 1st District. That was really nutty.
When state Democratic leaders warned about this plan last summer, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, mockingly dismissed the claim as a “conspiracy theory.” But not only did O’Neal draft a map that did just that, he cast the tie-breaking vote when the House Redistricting Committee approved the plan last week.
“For nearly a year, Mike O’Neal has insinuated that I’m a liar, both to the media and in front of our colleagues in the Kansas Legislature,” an understandably upset Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said in a statement. “It’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.”
Still, there is one good thing about O’Neal’s map, the plan that the House approved then rejected, and Senate efforts to protect moderate state lawmakers: They make a compelling case for why Kansas should join other states that use a nonpartisan, independent process to draw districts.