Every 10 years the people of Kansas get the special opportunity to see how ugly and political the Kansas Legislature can really get. Kansans’ worst fears about politicians who use power to protect their own interests come horrifically clear during a process known as redistricting.
Redistricting is when currently elected politicians get to determine what legislative and congressional districts will be for the next ten years. This allows elected politicians to protect themselves and their friends by cutting out politically unfavorable areas of their district, while carving in areas that better align with their ideology. Allowing elected officials to control this process yields bluer “blue” districts and redder “red” districts, thus furthering the political stalemate we see in Washington and Topeka. Why would anyone in their right minds allow the fox to guard the chicken coup? Answer: Politics.
The people of Kansas are “privileged” to have Kansas House Leadership draw the maps this year. The Speaker and his followers have decided to split Wyandotte and Johnson Counties into two different congressional districts. This may come as a surprise to House leadership, but Kansas City includes both Wyandotte and Johnson counties. Although these communities have relatively different demographics (racial diversity, economic status, etc.), they are bound by bigger concerns. These communities are connected by the desire to see their city, Kansas City, prosper. Kansas City residents are smart enough to understand that when one county benefits, it is good for both. Why would anyone in their right mind separate these two commonly bound communities from being served by the same congressman? Answer: Politics.
To make this already terrible idea worse, the Speaker has recommended that Wyandotte County be carved into the 1st Congressional District (which currently makes up the western half of the state). Can Congressman Huelskamp effectively represent the urban core of Kansas City while serving the interests of the agricultural Big 1st? Of course not. Congressman Huelskamp was elected to represent rural Kansas, not Wyandotte County. Kansas City will suffer under the Speaker’s map. Why would anyone in their right mind put urban Wyandotte County into a congressional district dominated by rural western Kansas? Answer: Politics.
During the 15 public forums regarding redistricting held across the state, dozens of community leaders urged legislative leaders to stop any map that would put urban Wyandotte with rural western Kansas. Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban, old and young, rich and poor voters all talked about the obvious stupidity of such a plan, and yet the House Redistricting Committee passed such a congressional map on March 14th. Why would any group of elected officials, who represent the people of Kansas, ever vote for such an unpopular, community dividing, common-sense rejecting congressional map? Answer: Politics.
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Rep. Mike Slattery serves the 24th House District, which includes Mission and portions of Roeland Park and Overland Park in Johnson County. He has served in the Legislature since 2009.