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Gerrymandering by another name

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

What could be worse than having your fate decided by bickering factions of the Republican Party in the Kansas Legislature?

As it turns out, the answer is quite simple: The would-be Solomons of federal district court didn’t just threaten to divide a baby when they stepped in to settle a reapportionment squabble last week.

They actually split Marion County in two, abandoning us to a demilitarized zone left politically barren by a war between extremists and moderates within the same party.

Hillsboro and southern Marion County may find that they have heritage in common with the section of Harvey County that will now dominate their legislative district, but Marion and the northern portion of the county have little if anything in common with Abilene, which will dominate theirs.

The new 70th District is so stupidly configured that it stretches all the way into Clay County, a nearly two-hour drive from Marion, yet bypasses the only town inbetween — Herington — that might actually have something in common with Marion.

Federal court did something we previously thought was impossible. They made gerrymandering look good.

Rather than reflect realities of similar interests, the judges drew their map much in the manner of colonial powers, divvying up conquered land without regard for the indigenous people.

The redistricting doesn’t just divide Marion County. It also divides three of its five school districts, each of which now will cross into multiple legislative districts.

The rest of the state seems to regard us like some bit of sandy Middle Eastern desert. Just as we are divided among two area codes (620 and 785), three ever-more-confused postal regions (668, 670 and 674), and multiple retail trade centers, we’re now poised to have a legislative voice so weak that the dropping of a pin would drown it out.

And, with no one to advocate for anything different, it’s likely to stay that way even beyond the next reapportionment a decade from now.

To his credit, Rep. Bob Brookens recognized he couldn’t do anything about it. He wisely exercised the better part of valor and decided to tend to his personal interests rather than try to wage what might have been an uphill battle to retain his seat in a body where he didn’t have enough power to protect us from this fate.

All we can do now is insist that the warfare among Republicans stop. Real people are being deprived of their voice in legislative matters because a single party can’t agree on how reactionary and holier than thou its members have to be before they are considered conservative enough.

They’re playing games. We’re paying the price. The only way to fight back is to deny them — and their ringleaders, including ultra-conservative Gov. Sam Brownback — the one thing they need: your vote.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified June 14, 2012

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