Public provides redistricting input

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
County Commissioner Mike Stieben speaks Friday to members of the redistricting committees of the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. The committees conducted a town hall meeting in Leavenworth.

Local members of the public had the opportunity Friday to offer their suggestions for redrawing state legislative and congressional districts in Kansas.

Members of the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate redistricting committees conducted a joint town hall meeting Friday in Leavenworth.

State Sen. Rick Wilborn said the meeting was part of a listening tour.

"We want this to be the first of many conversations with you," he said.

Wilborn is the chairman of the Kansas Senate's Committee on Redistricting. Wilborn, R-McPherson, also is the vice president of the state Senate.

State legislatures will be tasked next year with redrawing the boundaries of the state's four congressional districts as well as the state Senate and House districts. The redistricting is required as a result of the new population data from the 2020 census.

One of the speakers who addressed the committee members Friday was County Commissioner Mike Stieben.

Stieben, R-Tonganoxie, suggested Leavenworth County should have one countywide state Senate District.

Currently, Leavenworth County is divided into two Kansas Senate districts. District 5 includes the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing as well as a portion of Wyandotte County. The district is represented by state Sen. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth.

District 3 includes the rest of Leavenworth County as well as a portion of Douglas County. The district is represented by state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.

"We would like to have our own voice," Stieben said.

He said Leavenworth County is large enough in population to have its own state Senate district.

"We're the sixth largest county in the state," he said.

The idea of creating a single state Senate district for Leavenworth County also was proposed following the 2010 census.

State Rep. Tom Sawyer, minority leader of the Kansas House of Representatives, speaks with state Sen. Ty Masterson, president of the Kansas Senate. The two men spoke Friday in Leavenworth before the start of a town hall meeting on the issue of redistricting.

Edna Wagner said having only one Senate district for Leavenworth County is not a good idea.

Wagner spoke Friday as a representative of the NAACP and the Richard Allen Cultural Center.

Wagner also expressed concern about the city of Leavenworth being divided into two Kansas House districts. She argued the split nullifies the votes of Black residents in the city.

Wagner also said Leavenworth County should not be included in the state's 1st congressional district.

Leavenworth County currently is in the 2nd congressional district, which comprises most of eastern Kansas.

The 1st District comprises most of western Kansas and the north-central region of the state.

Sherri Grogan, president of an organization called Rural Leavenworth Inc., asked that Leavenworth County not be split between two congressional districts. She also asked that lawmakers try to keep school districts whole as much as possible instead of splitting them into multiple legislative districts.

Several other people addressed committee members during the town hall meeting including residents of Topeka and Jefferson County.

Some people also submitted written testimony for Friday's meeting.

Wilborn said there is no cutoff date for submitting written comments. Comments can be emailed to redistricting@klrd.ks.gov.

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