A bitter split between conservative and moderate Republicans has kept the Kansas Senate from agreeing on a proposal for redrawing their districts, and the delay threatens to create administrative headaches ahead of this year’s primary election. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is involved in the debate, as is the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce. House Republican leaders are frustrated enough with the Senate’s inability to produce a new political map that they’re preparing to intervene, which would break with decades of tradition. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections official, warns that if redistricting issues aren’t settled quickly enough, the state will have to push back its June 1 candidate filing deadline. Also, county officials could violate a federal law governing the distribution of ballots to military personnel overseas.
Legislators adjourned last week for their annual spring break without sending Brownback any bills that redraw political boundaries to account for shifts in population over the past decade. Redistricting issues will complicate efforts to wrap up business for the year when legislators reconvene April 25. And trust among senators appears to have eroded. “In ‘Star Trek’ vernacular, shields are up, and weapons are hot,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, a conservative Andover Republican.
When lawmakers redraw the 40 Senate and 125 House districts every 10 years, partisan and regional tensions usually bubble up. Rural areas with declining populations resist losing clout, political parties jockey for advantage and individual lawmakers haggle over precincts. In early February, the House approved a bipartisan plan for redrawing members’ districts, but congressional redistricting has proven tougher — Both chambers have both passed proposals and killed the other chamber’s plan. The Senate’s debate is unusually contentious. The Senate is the last big political stronghold for GOP moderates, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has targeted eight Republican incumbents in primaries, including Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton.
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