The Kansas political class is upset because a federal court drew new districts they way they should be drawn — compactly and contiguously, and also considering communities of interest.
The court, in its opinion, explained: “we have developed new legislative maps that distribute population as evenly as practicable between districts, while also considering to a much lesser degree the state’s legislative policies guiding redistricting.”
In drawing Congressional districts the court took into consideration the Roeck score, a measure of compactness.
What the court has done is to ignore the desires of the political class. The legislature’s consideration when attempting redistricting was all politics, all the time. Incumbents were protected and not pitted against each other. The residencies of potential challengers to incumbents were considered. The infighting was so protracted that the legislature failed to produce new districts, and is said to have affceted progress on other important legislation.
It’s good the court didn’t consider the entrenched political class, because they don’t count. The legislature should not be run as a club. Said the court: “We have subordinated protection of incumbents to other state policy factors and, of course, to the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote. … any efforts to protect incumbents would require our choosing among incumbents, an inherently political exercise that we are neither able nor inclined undertake.”
In creating the new districts for the Kansas House and Senate, the court — unintentionally — imposed a rough and not complete one-time implementation of term limits. In the House, there are 48 districts with more than one incumbent and 25 districts with no incumbent. This means a lot of turnover, which is good. We need fewer professional politicians and more citizens in legislatures. This is not as large a problem in Kansas as in the U.S. Congress, as our legislature meets for four months each year, and legislators are pretty much regular citizens the remainder of the year. But still, the redistricting battle has reminded us that there is indeed a political class in Kansas that believes it is entitled to office, term after term.
Further evidence of an entrenched political class is the number — five at current count — of incumbents who moved their residence in order to run.
I believe that Kansans will appreciate the large number of new members that are likely to take office next January. Hopefully the new members will realize the benefit themselves and implement term limits in Kansas. That would require an amendment to the constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the legislature. Then, the people would have to pass the amendment by a simple majority. It’s quite likely that voters would approve term limits, as they are consistently popular with voters.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback does not play a formal role in passing constitutional amendments. His involvement would be to exercise his influence. Brownback, when elected to the U.S. Senate, imposed a two-term limit in himself, and he held true to that pledge. He has spoken in favor of term limits for members of Congress.