Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal earlier this month to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission is a worthwhile one. We hope that the Legislature approves it next session and takes politics out of the process.
Two weeks ago, we wrote about the importance of the upcoming election to our state’s representation. In short, if Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate, they can create an abundance of mischief while drawing maps, diluting votes of the opposition party. They could create a district less favorable to U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, let’s say. They could attempt to pad their majorities at the Statehouse.
This isn’t just supposition. Outgoing Senate President Susan Wagle said as much in comments to GOP donors. She didn’t even attempt a pretense of fairness.
"So redistricting is right around the corner, and if Gov. Kelly can veto a Republican bill, that gives us four Republican congressmen, that takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd (Congressional District), we can do that," Wagle said. "I guarantee you, we can draw four Republican congressional maps, but we can’t do it unless we have a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House."
Talk about saying the silent part out loud.
Wagle’s camp tried to portray the comments as standard political wrangling. The Senate president wanted to back her team as fully as possible, they said, just like the governor wants to back her team. Nothing to see here!
But that’s not the case. An independent commission would take orders from neither party. Indeed, it would likely create a map similar to Kansas’ current one, which was drawn by justices after the Senate and House couldn’t agree. It would actually attempt to draw districts to represent Kansans fairly and accurately.
For some reason, though, GOP leaders aren’t lending their support to Kelly’s bill. They aren’t supporting a nonpartisan, independent body. That, in and of itself, proves how transparently political the process is for bosses of the state's majority party. They aren’t content for their members to be part of a majority. They want more. More gerrymandering, more representatives, more power. And less accountability.
Fair maps are just that: Fair. They’re meant to give both parties a chance to compete on their ideas and ability to persuade voters. They’re meant to support, rather than thwart, a two-party system. Surely a fair-minded coalition of Republicans and Democrats can unite behind that goal.