Introduction to Redistricting

Jordan Milholland
Senior Research Analyst

Jessa Farmer
Senior Research Analyst

Andrew Finzen
Research Analyst

Redistricting is the process of drawing electoral district boundaries in the United States. The Kansas Legislature is responsible for drawing the boundaries of the four congressional districts of the state, the state legislative districts (House and Senate), and the State Board of Education (State Board) districts.

Why Does the Legislature Redistrict?

The U.S. Constitution and federal law require a Census to be conducted every ten years and congressional districts to be reapportioned based on the population information obtained in the Census. (See U.S. Constitution Art. I, §2, cl. 3 and 2 USC §2a(a).) Similarly, the Kansas Constitution requires boundaries for the State’s House and Senate districts to be redrawn every ten years in coordination with, and using population information provided by, the federal Census. (See Kansas Constitution Art. 10, §1.) The Kansas Constitution also requires the Legislature to determine the boundaries for the ten State Board districts, which are each composed of four contiguous Senate districts. (See Kansas Constitution Art. 6, §3(a).)

When Does the Legislature Redistrict?

The redistricting process begins with and centers on the Census. The Census is an ongoing project, and the groundwork for the 2020 Census began in 2012 after the most recent redistricting process was completed. Preparations for the Census are being made through a program called the 2020 Census Redistricting Data Program (Program). Kansas uses the resulting information to build congressional, state legislative, and State Board districts using election precincts and census blocks. Federal law requires all state participation in the Program to be through a nonpartisan liaison; in Kansas, this is the Kansas Legislative Research Department.

Delivery of 2020 Census Redistricting Data Files and Geographic Products

The national and state population information data was delivered on April 26, 2021. Information for all census tabulation areas (state, congressional district, state legislative districts, American Indian areas, counties, cities, towns, census tracts, census block groups, and census blocks) was provided to the Governor and state legislative leaders of all states on August 12, 2021; the target date had been April 1, 2021.

Kansas Population Adjustments

In 2019, the Legislature passed SCR 1605, which was placed on the November 2019 ballot. Passage of the question required the Kansas Constitution to be amended to remove the requirement that the Office of the Secretary of State adjust the population information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau to count members of the military and college students. As a result, the population adjustments are no longer required, and the redistricting process will use total population, as certified by the Bureau, to establish the boundaries of political districts.

How Does the Legislature Redistrict?

The process of redistricting in Kansas involves all three branches of state government. The Legislature proposes maps and passes bills providing initial approval of those maps. The Governor then signs the bills, vetoes the bills, or allows them to become law without a signature. The Kansas Supreme Court reviews the maps and gives final approval.

In 2021, the Legislative Coordinating Council created a Redistricting Advisory Group (Group) made up of three senators and three representatives. The Group was formed to assist with preparations for the legislative portion of the redistricting process.

In August 2021, the House and Senate standing redistricting committees held public meetings in 14 different locations across Kansas. A second round of meetings was also held in November 2021. The committees sought public input on what the citizens of Kansas wanted from the redistricting process. As specified in the Kansas Constitution, Kansas draws redistricting maps during the legislative session of the year ending in “2,” which for this cycle will be the 2022 Legislative Session.

The maps go through the legislative process like any other bill. During the 2010 redistricting cycle, the Legislature did not successfully pass redistricting bills in both chambers. Redistricting maps were ultimately drawn by the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in 2012.

Kansas Supreme Court Approval

The Kansas Constitution provides the following procedure for final approval of state legislative maps by the Kansas Supreme Court:

  • The redistricting bills are published in the Kansas Register immediately upon passage;
  • The Attorney General must petition the Kansas Supreme Court to determine the maps’ validity within 15 days of the publication of an act reapportioning state legislative districts; and
  • The Kansas Supreme Court has 30 days from the filing of that petition to enter a judgment. (See Kansas Constitution Art. 10, §1.)

If the Court determines the maps are valid, the redistricting process is complete. If the Court finds the maps to be invalid:

  • The Attorney General must petition the Court to determine validity of maps enacted in an attempt to conform with the Court’s previous judgment; and
  • The Court has ten days from the date of the Attorney General’s filing to enter a judgment. If the Court says the new maps are valid, redistricting is complete.

If the Court finds the the new maps to be invalid, the Legislature has 15 days to pass new maps.

This process repeats until the Legislature presents maps the Court determines are valid. (See Kansas Constitution Art. 10, §1.)