Kansas lawmakers won’t have to redraw congressional and legislative district maps for another six years, but state and federal officials aren’t waiting that long to get ready for the process. Officials from the U.S. Census Bureau met Tuesday with staff from the Legislature’s nonpartisan Research Department to review the process they’ll use and get familiar with the types of data and computer software that will be essential in the next round of redistricting. “It’s a long process, so we want to get information out early so folks can start preparing whatever material they need — geographic information; software — so they can start thinking about how they’re going to implement the program when it comes time to actually start redistricting,” said Michael Ratcliffe, the Census Bureau’s assistant division chief for geographic standards in Washington.
Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers,” and that an actual enumeration, or census, of the people must be conducted every 10 years. The next decennial census will take place in 2020, and states have two years after that in which to draw new maps for the congressional districts and state legislative districts.
The census not only counts the number of people residing in each state, but maps them down to small geographic units known as census “blocks.” Legislatures then use that data to draw maps that are supposed to be as equal in population as possible.
The process can be among the most intensely political actions that state legislatures have to make, with major political parties jockeying for position and incumbent legislators angling to protect themselves in the upcoming elections.