Let’s face it: Voting in a state like Kansas can sometimes feel a bit anticlimactic.
Yes, we have important state and local races on the ballot, and this year we’re seeing some exciting U.S. Senate and House contests. But we’re not one of the "swing states" swooned over the national media tracking the presidential horse race.
Here’s a wrinkle, though. With the 2020 Census triggering once-a-decade redistricting, elections in Kansas will be vitally important in another way. We know, we know, "redistricting" sounds about as exciting as a trip to the dentist.
But it matters.
Imagine you have a state with 100 members of Party A and 100 members of Party B. Evenly divided, right? But imagine you have three districts in that state electing representatives. You might think that candidates from each party would have a 50-50 shot in each district. But if you draw the districts in a certain way, you can effectively disenfranchise voters from one of the parties — meaning their votes count for less.
How? Let’s assume that Party A’s voters mainly live in one city, while Party B’s voters live throughout the rest of the state. With three districts and 200 party members, each district will have 66 or 67 voters. Say that district 1 has exclusively Party A’s voters — 67 of them. That means you have only 33 more members of Party A to divide between the other two districts.
Thus, district 2 could include 50 members of Party B and 16 members of Party A. District 3 would include 50 members of Party B and 17 members of Party A. Thus, our perfectly divided state — with an exact division between parties — could be redistricted in such a way that Party B always wins two of three seats.
In a nutshell, this is what happens when parties try to entrench control through redistricting. (It doesn’t just work in this way, of course, given that states seldom have precisely split electorates). They aim to heighten the power of voters from their side and diminish the power of voters from the other.
In Kansas, Republicans have held supermajority status in the Legislature for years. That would allow them to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly if she rejected a redistricting plan. But if they lose even a handful of spots, everything changes.
As Titus Wu, of The Topeka Capital Journal, wrote this week: "If Democrats win just one more seat in the Kansas House or three more in the Kansas Senate, GOP lawmakers will need to work with the other party to get maps approved by the governor."
We need this kind of cooperation and collaboration. We need a fair and bipartisan redistricting process. And your vote this November can help that happen.