TOPEKA — Only a cartographer or a state legislator could get this excited over maps.
Cartographers, because they like maps. Legislators, because where the lines are drawn for their district can directly affect their future as officeholders.
Today, the Senate Reapportionment Committee added a third map to two proposals that had drawn condemnation from conservatives because they drew a conservative challenger out of the district of incumbent Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
Map No. 3, proposed by Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, puts McGinn and businessman Gary Mason in the same district, as they are now.
In written testimony to the committee, Mason complained he was being "Gary-mandered" out of the district where he wants to run, a play on words alluding to "Gerrymandering," the practice of drawing districts to favor one candidate or party over another.
He went before the committee and asked if he could submit his own map. A representative of the Legislative Research Department offered to help him.
The committee chairman, Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, warned Mason that there could be a long line of people also looking for Legislative Research assistance. "Certainly, the priority is going to be given to legislators who are trying to get maps drawn," he said.
Sen Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, who served on the last redistricting committee 10 years ago, questioned whether private citizens should even be allowed to tap state resources to create their own redistricting maps.
Back then, "I don't believe then that there was availability for outside people to use our staff," she said.
Owens said he'd check and see if that is allowable and put the policy on the state's reapportionment web site, redistricting.ks.gov.
McGinn said she thought the state has already made accommodations for members of the public to develop their own redistricting maps.
"We have a web site, I thought, where people can go in and play around with that," she said.
The Progressive Congress Action Fund has set up an online redistricting map-making program at action.progressivecongress.org/redistricting.
Emporia State University Professor Michael A. Smith used that site for his students to make their own redistricting maps, and announced a statewide contest for the general public to try to come up with maps that most closely match those that ultimately emerge from the Legislature.