Nearly two weeks after federal judges released new district maps defining Kansas’ political boundaries, voters, candidates and officials are still piecing together what the changes mean for the state.
After a divided Kansas legislature failed to agree on new political maps, the process fell to the courts. Adjusting boundaries to reflect population shifts is mandatory for states to complete every 10 years.
New political boundaries were created for the state’s legislative districts, with alterations affecting all of Derby’s legislators.
“One precinct in Derby has actually been split between three [Senate] districts,” said Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner.
Derby has been split into three different Senate districts: the 16th, 26th and 28th.
Sen. Dick Kelsey’s District 26 now barely includes residents of western neighborhoods of Derby.
Sen. Ty Masterson’s District 16 now encompasses suburban residents of Derby, Andover, Augusta, Rose Hill and Bel Aire, while Sen. Mike Petersen’s District 28 has extended further south to include more of Derby.
“He’s [Sen. Petersen] the primary senator for the city of Derby population-wise, also serving a good portion of south Wichita,” said Kathy Sexton, Derby city manager.
Both Kelsey and Petersen have challengers. Dan Kerschen (R-Garden Plain) will oppose Kelsey in District 26. Keith Humphrey (D-Derby) will challenge Petersen to represent the majority of Derby’s population in the Senate. Masterson is running unopposed.
New boundaries also change Derby’s representation in the Kansas House.
Formerly, Derby was primarily represented by one district, House District 82. Now, Derby has been sawn in half with a line drawn through the middle of the city.
Most residents living in Derby south of 71st Street (Meadowlark) are grouped in District 82 along with Mulvane. Derby residents north of 71st Street are grouped with much of the county and some of south Wichita into District 81.
Derby’s Rep. Jim Howell, formerly of District 82, found himself drawn out of his district and facing opposition. Barbara Lynn Wells (D-Derby) has filed to challenge Howell.
“I was looking forward to meeting the people in my district and now I look forward to meeting Barbara. I am confident we have opposite views on many issues, so the voters in the district will now have a choice,” said Howell.
Many have struggled to absorb the changes via complicated maps. The Sedgwick County Election Commission used the legal descriptions of the new boundaries to create their political maps.
“The maps are made off of 2010 census data and precinct boundaries,” Lehman said. “Changes in annexation and the fact Derby already did their own redistricting will mean that the maps won’t look the same as what we currently know.”
Any potential inaccuracies or mistakes in the map labels or other information would likely be corrected through legislative action, but would not change the overall outcome of the redistricting process.
“We often pass a technical clean-up bill [in the legislature] that is necessary to fix the errors. I do not know if this would be done by the court before the election or would be a legislative action next session should errors be discovered,” said Howell.
Voters should expect differences in what and who appears on their ballot, but should follow normal voting procedures, including bringing a government-issued photo ID to their polling place.
“We are working through these changes, then we will mail each voter affected a new card that lists where they are registered to vote, party affiliation and all the districts. They will receive something from us that tells them their new district,” said Lehman.
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