TOPEKA, Kan. — A redistricting measure that would split Topeka between two congressional districts advanced Wednesday in the Kansas House.
Members gave the bill first-round approval on a 77-43 vote, suggesting the bill has enough support to pass when the House takes a final vote Thursday. The Senate approved a bipartisan congressional redistricting plan last month, and negotiators for the two chambers are likely to draft the final version.
Topeka is now entirely in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, but the bill would extend the 1st District of western and central Kansas into the capital city. The 1st District would take in the Statehouse and heavily minority neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city. Republican-leaning, predominantly white neighborhoods in the city's west side would remain in the 2nd.
Many Republicans, including Gov. Sam Brownback, oppose moving Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, from the 2nd District into the 1st. And House members rejected a proposal to extend the 1st District across the state's northern border and into the Kansas City area, splitting it between two districts.
"We have to go somewhere to get the population," said Rep. Clay Aurand, a Courtland Republican.
Lawmakers must adjust the lines of the state's four U.S. House districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The 1st District is nearly 58,000 residents short of the ideal population of 713,280.
But Topeka-area lawmakers oppose splitting their community. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, noted that the Legislature's redistricting guidelines call for keeping communities with similar interests in one district.
"We're not following our guidelines, and everyone in this room knows that," Davis said.
The House committee's plan is "Bob Dole 1," under "Proposed Plans" on the Legislature's redistricting website.
Kansas Legislature's redistricting site: http://redistricting.ks.gov/