Residents urge legislative redistricting committee to keep Wyandotte, Johnson counties together

Wyandotte County residents on Tuesday evening told a legislative redistricting committee they wanted Wyandotte County to stay together with Johnson County in the 3rd Congressional District.

The legislative redistricting listening tour went to Bonner Springs and Stilwell on Tuesday evening to hear comments from residents. It was the second round of redistricting listening tour meetings. Committee members listened to comments by video from Topeka, while residents made comments from their communities.

Connie Brown Collins, a resident of the Welborn area of Kansas City, Kansas, implored the committee to “keep Wyandotte County whole.”

After census results came in, it was found the 3rd District is about 57,816 persons over the ideal population of 734,470, about 7 percent over the ideal, according to Jordan Milholland of the Kansas Legislative Research Department. The 3rd District will have to give the extra population to another district or districts in the state.

Collins, who is with the Voting Rights Network of Kansas, said that western and southern townships in Johnson County could be moved into another congressional district. Currently the 3rd District includes Wyandotte, Johnson and parts of Miami County.

Collins echoed a speaker at the Stilwell location, Amy Carter of Overland Park, who said areas including DeSoto and Louisburg might be moved into another district. The most populous parts of Johnson and Wyandotte counties should be kept together in the 3rd District, while the more rural parts of Johnson County could be moved into another district, Carter suggested.

Also speaking was Dr. Bruce Carter of Overland Park, who said the 3rd District’s diversity needs to be maintained. He noted the district was winnable by either party now. He asked that the voters be allowed to make their decisions and choose their representative; the representative should not be determined by the lines drawn by the legislative committee.

“We voters should be making that decision,” he said.

Collins said Wyandotte and Johnson counties share employment and transportation systems, and as part of the Greater Kansas City area should remain in the same district.

Henry Chamberlain, Bonner Springs, talked about diversity in Wyandotte County, and the difference between rural and urban areas. It would probably be impossible for a representative from rural Kansas to fully understand and represent his interests in an urban area, he said.

Chamberlain told the committee he had expected to be one of the people funding litigation in case the district’s boundary lines were gerrymandered. He urged the committee to keep Wyandotte and Johnson counties together in the 3rd District. He told the committee that they had the ability to avoid delay, litigation and expenditure of public resources, plus there was the opportunity to restore the faith of Kansans in their Legislature.

Alex Overman, who lives in Lenexa and works in Wyandotte County, offered several redistricting maps for the committee. One of them, for example, kept all the cities intact and together, while removing Gardner, DeSoto and Edgerton from the 3rd District.

“If we break up Johnson and Wyandotte counties, someone’s going to be misrepresented,” he said.

Mike Taylor, a retired public relations director for the Unified Government, was representing the Voter Rights Network of Wyandotte County.

He told the committee that Wyandotte and Johnson counties are not only neighbors, they have strong community interests. They share sewer systems, transportation networks, infrastructure networks, and a lot is dependent on federal funding, Taylor said. It’s important to have one federal representative to fight for that funding, he said. Twenty-two mayors in both counties meet on a monthly basis.

Taylor felt that it would be pretty easy to solve the redistricting challenges unless there is an attempt to gerrymander, and “we urge you not to do that.”

After the committee has drawn the maps, Taylor asked it to hold another round of public hearings.

Cassandra Woolworth of Johnson County said the biggest issue was keeping Wyandotte and Johnson counties together.

“We don’t want gerrymandering,” she said. “We don’t want any kind of slanted political view. Aren’t we done with that yet, don’t we already have enough partisan politics.”

She recalled the courts had to decide the issue in 2012. There had been a proposal to put Wyandotte County in with a district in western Kansas.

“I don’t want history to repeat itself,” she said.

“Gerrymandering is cheating,” she said. “We teach our children not to cheat. We can’t show them that cheating is the way to win.”

State Rep. Chris Croft, R-8th Dist., chair of the House redistricting committee, conducted the legislative redistricting listening tour.

State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., is the House redistricting committee ranking minority member.

The committee also is still taking written comments at

The listening tour from Bonner Springs and Stilwell is online at

Why Kansas Democrats tell Republicans to ‘keep it transparent’ as they draw new political maps

by Abigail Censky and Daniel Wheaton, KCUR and Kansas News Service

Republicans will control the redistricting process in Kansas next year. Right now, they face an uphill battle to convince residents in the suburbs of Kansas City that they won’t gerrymander the maps to supercharge Republican power.

Overland Park, Kansas — Without a single new boundary line drawn for the congressional and legislative districts, Republicans running redistricting in Kansas find themselves under fire.

Democrats argue that 14 town halls scattered across the state came with too little advance notice — 10 days — while people who crammed into one of those meetings in Johnson County worried that the fix is in.

“It’s almost as if there was a plan to cheat,” said Stacey Knoell, an Olathe resident.

One of the most critical choices with the once-a-decade redrawing of political maps revolves around the state’s 3rd Congressional District in the Kansas City area. For the last quarter century, it’s toggled between Republican and Democrat. In 2018, Democrat Sharice Davids won the congressional seat.

Republicans want that seat back. By drawing the new congressional districts in a way that puts parts of Johnson or Wyandotte counties in other districts, for instance, they could make her re-election nearly impossible. And because they hold a firm grip on the Legislature, Republicans control redistricting.

On Thursday, Knoell and hundreds of other people crowded into an Overland Park community center to weigh in with state lawmakers after Democrats raised alarm bells that Republicans were attempting to freeze citizens out of the process.

The audience tilted heavily Democratic and pressed for a collective wish list. They demanded maps that grouped districts by communities, not something gerrymandered to consolidate power for one political party. They wanted Wyandotte and Johnson counties kept together in a way that kept Davids’ district essentially intact.

“Within the district’s boundaries lies the heart of the Kansas side of the KC metropolitan area,” said Ron Fugate. He wants the Kansas 3rd to remain in a single district and urged lawmakers to “keep it transparent.”

State Rep. Chris Croft, a Republican from Overland Park, chairs the Kansas House redistricting committee. He said that information is what lawmakers came to hear, said “but how realistic that is really depends upon the numbers.”

New numbers from the 2020 Census show a decline in rural populations across the state and an increase in the state’s population centers fueled by migration to the Kansas City metro area. Douglas, Leavenworth, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are all within the top five counties with the greatest population growth.

Kansas’ four congressional districts will need to have roughly 734,470 people each.

Since 2010, Johnson County and Wyandotte County have grown by more than 77,000 people, putting the counties central to the 3rd District roughly 44,000 people over the threshold. Wyandotte County votes heavily Democratic. Johnson County is more Republican, but it has a larger share of Democrats than most of Kansas. Both counties cannot remain entirely whole to meet redistricting requirements.

A change in how members of the military and college students are counted will also mean changes for state legislative districts. Populations in Douglas and Riley counties, home to two state universities and an Army base, increased because college students were counted in Lawrence and Manhattan rather than in their hometowns.

Kansas is one of 29 states across the country where the Legislature wields nearly total control over the redistricting process. Next year, when maps are redrawn to make the number of people in each district equal, Republicans will have an outsize influence on the process thanks to their fortified supermajority.

But they face an uphill battle to convince residents in the Kansas City area that they won’t gerrymander congressional or state legislative districts to supercharge Republican power in the state.

At the meetings in Kansas City, Kansas, and Overland Park any condemnation of former Senate President Susan Wagle’s pledge that “we can draw four Republican maps” sparked applause from the crowd. Sen. Rick Wilborn, A Republican from McPherson and chairman of the redistricting committee, said that Wagle is not driving the redistricting process.

“It’s unfortunate that statement was made,” he said. “But that’s all I have to say about it. I didn’t make the statement. No one on that committee made that statement.”

Wilborn and Croft previously drew the ire of Democrats by scheduling many of the meetings during the work day and all in a single week. Democrats say that limits participation to the mostly white retiree and middle-aged group that attended the Overland Park meeting. In 2011, the meetings were spread out over the course of four months.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, another Overland Park Democrat, said her concerns about accessibility materialized in places like Garden City and Dodge City.

“You have a lot of working people, a lot of shift workers, who were not able to take advantage of that,” she said. “So that is not just an issue here in the Kansas City area, but also all over Kansas.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman has said that additional virtual town halls may be held in the fall, but he has not yet provided any additional details.

Democrats like Clayton want more town hall meetings to be held after people have had time to review the census data that came out on Thursday — at least two meetings in the five most populous counties in the state.

“We need to have these meetings where people actually live,” Clayton said, “because cows don’t vote, people do. And we’ve got plenty of people here, especially in the Kansas City area.”

Abigail Censky is the political reporter for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @AbigailCensky or email her at abigailcensky (at) kcur (dot) org.
TheKansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
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4 ways Republicans could redistrict the only Kansas Democrat in Congress out of a job

Now that Congress has killed a major bill changing election rules, redrawing legislative and congressional lines will fall to the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. That could endanger the only Democrat representing Kansas on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids has now won Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District twice. But Republicans in control of redistricting in Kansas may attempt to change that by gerrymandering her district to become unwinnable. (Photo by Carlos Moreno, KCUR)

by Abigail Censky, KCUR and Kansas News Service

Topeka, Kansas — When Republicans in Congress blocked debate on the Democratic-led elections overhaul bill last week, it dashed U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids’ hopes that her district could be redrawn by an independent commission.

Instead, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature looks poised to draw maps used for the 2022 election and likely to determine political careers for the next decade.

With a nonpartisan panel charting the new districts based on the 2020 Census, Rep. Davids could expect to run for re-election in a district fairly similar to the one that elected her to the U.S. House twice.

With redistricting left to state lawmakers, the Republicans who dominate the Legislature have more freedom to gerrymander — the practice of manipulating a voting district to ensure a favorable outcome for one party. Rep. Davids told MSNBC in early June she’s worried that state Republicans are “saying, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em.’”

Former state Senate President Susan Wagle said nearly as much to a group of conservatives in Wichita last fall.

Gov. Laura Kelly can veto the redistricting plan. But Republicans would have the votes to override her.

“We can do that, I guarantee you,” Wagle said. “We can draw four Republican congressional maps.”

That video went viral. Democrats and The Kansas City Star editorial board alleged Republicans were saying the quiet part out loud.

Kansas is one of 29 states where the state legislature wields total control over redrawing the lines of both state legislative and congressional districts. For now, the 2020 Census data is delayed. That forces lawmakers to contemplate whether to begin holding town halls across the state for public input on the new maps without the latest population numbers. All the information the state needs to draw new maps should arrive by the end of September.

Lawmakers could theoretically begin to work with the state’s legislative research department to draft maps then. But that process could remain behind closed doors until legislators return to session next January. Here are four strategies that the Republican-controlled body may use to oust Rep. Davids from her seat:

Kansas’ 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Emporia to the Colorado border, has lost population over the last decade while Kansas City commuter counties like Johnson and Wyandotte have grown. That change will need to be reconciled in new maps. The Kansas Legislative Research Department says each of Kansas’ four congressional districts will need to have roughly 734,470 people.

The drawing board

Republicans could dilute the strength of Johnson County, the state’s bluest and most populous county, by adding part of Johnson County to the state’s 2nd Congressional District. But that could put Republican U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, who represents Topeka and Lawrence, in jeopardy by making his district more Democratic.

Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University, said you’d have to do more than strip out Wyandotte County to make the 3rd District losable for Rep. Davids, given her vote totals and President Joe Biden’s eight-point victory there.

“You have to split Johnson County in order to achieve that,” Smith said.

Yet that risks infuriating constituents and groups that want to remain together in the county that’s home to more than 20% of the state’s population and produces a quarter of its GDP, Smith said.

Toy with Wyandotte County

The 3rd Congressional District currently covers all of Johnson and Wyandotte counties and parts of Miami County. Republicans could further weaken Democrats by shifting the borders so parts of reliably Democratic Wyandotte County get included in the sprawling, heavily Republican and mostly rural 1st Congressional District.

“I absolutely think that there are some individuals in the Legislature that will want to give it a try,” Smith said.

State Sen. Ethan Corson, a Democrat from Johnson County and former executive director of the state party, said shifting Wyandotte out of the district could backfire on Republicans.

“I don’t think that’s going to pass legal scrutiny,” Corson said.

Veto override

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly can veto any maps that don’t keep counties whole, dilute minority voting strength or don’t keep districts “clear and contiguous” as prioritized in the redistricting guidelines used by the state in 2002 and 2012.

But after winning seats in the 2020 elections, Kansas Republicans have an even stronger supermajority in the Legislature. If Kelly vetoed a map that endangers Rep. Davids, they could override her. However, the Kansas Supreme Court will still need to approve the final maps.

Running out the clock

A dramatically less plausible fourth strategy for Republicans would be to stall and cross their fingers that Kelly isn’t re-elected to a second term. Then a Republican governor could sign off on their maps.

Ten years ago, Kansas was the last state to draw its congressional districts because of a dispute between Republicans about where to move Manhattan. Federal courts intervened and drew the current maps.

But congressional and state legislative candidates are required to file to run for office by June 1, 2022, so maps need to be drawn before the end of next year’s session in May.

“The courts will run out of patience, the federal courts in particular,” Smith said. So, running out the clock really isn’t a practical option because the courts will just “draw the district if they drag this out too long.”

Abigail Censky is the political reporter for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @AbigailCensky or email her at abigailcensky (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to

See more at