Federal judges deciding the fate of Kansas’ legislative districts sent strong signals Wednesday that they might jettison plans that didn’t make it through the Legislature and draw their own district maps. On the second day of hearings in the Kansas City courthouse, the three-judge panel spent significant time pressing Corey Carnahan – the Legislature’s go-to guy on maps – for details of how redistricting is done and how they could take advantage of his services. The hearings had begun Tuesday with Carnahan, an analyst in the Department of Legislative Services, giving the court a primer on the use of mapping software to develop legislative districts. Wednesday, the judges put him back in the witness box for a more lengthy and detailed tutorial on producing redistricting maps. “Could you tell us how we could do that?” asked John Lungstrom, senior judge in the Kansas City federal District Court. “How would we as the court do that?” As to helping the judges draw maps, Carnahan said, “That would be a request we could accommodate.”
State Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, told the judges they’d reached the point he was at when he embarked in map-making as chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, the panel with primary responsibility for the Senate’s redistricting effort. “I think the questions of the court just a few minutes ago are where I was at the start of the process,” Owens said. He said he had gone to Carnahan and asked him to draw up a fairly generic set of maps to get discussion started in the Legislature.
The Legislature is required once every 10 years to redraw congressional and state House, Senate and Board of Education district lines to account for population changes in the Census and ensure more-or-less equal representation across the state. But the process broke down this year as warring conservative and moderate Republican factions pressed for maps favoring their candidates for election.