How does the Kansas Congressional Redistribution compare to others?
Congressional redistribution sparks fear in Wyandotte County
Wyandotte County takes a suspicious eye as the Kansas legislature prepares to draw new congressional district maps. Kansas’ largest Democratic and minority stronghold is fearful of Republican plans for the county.
Every ten years, as state lawmakers draw new maps for legislative and congressional constituencies, they face charges of political self-interest and gerrymandering.
But the way Kansas draws its lines isn’t the only one. Increasingly, states are adopting systems that minimize or completely eliminate the role of elected officials.
Here are the most common approaches to redistribution:
How it works: This is the method most states use. Kansas and Missouri rely on the legislature to design congressional districts. In Kansas, lawmakers also design their own legislative district maps.
Like the normal legislative process, both the House and the Senate must pass the same bill. If that happens, it goes to the governor for approval or veto. If there is a veto, a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Assembly can override the governor’s rejection.
Advantages : Voters can hold lawmakers to account at the ballot box for the way they draw the neighborhoods. The legislative model also removes any illusion that redistribution is an apolitical and civic exercise, offering a kind of honesty that some may appreciate.
Disadvantages: It is brazenly political, with few checks on the instinct of lawmakers to protect themselves and their parties. It can also be difficult to muster enough support to pass new cards due to the large number of lawmakers involved.
How it works: There are a lot of variations. Missouri relies on independent citizens’ commissions to design the State House and Senate districts.
While committee members are appointed by the governor, their composition is heavily influenced by state parties. Both Republicans and Democrats nominate members of the commission.
Cards must be approved by 70% of members. If the commissions fail to draw districts, the Missouri Supreme Court appoints appellate judges to complete the task.
California also uses a 14-member commission system, but its members are more isolated from elected officials. Interested residents go through a nomination process that allows the legislature to remove some from the pool of candidates before the state auditor randomly selects the first eight commissioners, who then select the bottom six.
Advantages : By removing the cards from the hands of elected lawmakers, the commission model can potentially serve as a check against some of the more egregious acts of gerrymandering. It can also be less chaotic as there are fewer players involved.
Disadvantages: As the Missouri system shows, commissions can still be strongly partisan. And because commissioners are appointed and not elected, they are not directly accountable to voters.
How it works: Some states combine commission work with legislative approval.
In Iowa, for example, a bipartisan advisory commission guides non-partisan officials who write maps that the legislature accepts or rejects. Lawmakers can change the map in certain situations.
Utah also has a similar system, but lawmakers are not required to vote on the cards.
Advantages : Commissions may have a better chance of producing fair cards, but lawmakers accountable to voters always give the final approval. When lawmakers are not directly involved in drafting maps and instead asked to approve or reject them, it can reduce political maneuvering on district boundaries.
Disadvantages: Hybrids can be complicated and have a lot of moving parts. They depend on the willingness of legislators to accept the work of the committees.