It’s time to fight
for a voice in Topeka
Dollar stores, cell towers, fishing docks, tax levies, road repairs, fiberoptics, jail deaths, ATV crashes, even hiring an administrator isn’t the most serious issue Marion County faces.
Continued gerrymandering of the county out of reasonable representation in Topeka may not generate the chatter other issues do at coffee klatches, but its long-lasting significance undoubtedly will be more profound.
The way redistricting is done, foxes are in charge of the henhouse. Every syllable of discussion from our current out-of-county representatives about whether our county will get the legislative representation it deserves focuses on how existing districts can be tweaked to account for urban growth while making sure every incumbent who toes the party line is safe from challenge.
The League of Women Voters is the latest to jump on the anti-gerrymandering bandwagon and demand that legislators overturn one of the stated standards they use in redrawing their own district boundaries: that districts shouldn’t be drawn so that one incumbent might have to face another in an upcoming election.
Following that rule is the main reason why Marion County’s own redrawing of county commissioner districts was so flawed when the county went to five commissioners. District boundaries aren’t even contiguous. An island of Marion is completely surrounded by one district but actually belongs to another district miles away. All of that was to ensure that two of three commissioners at the time wouldn’t have to run against each other.
Hopefully, commissioners will correct that error when they redistrict in coming months. Meanwhile, the legislature should in its own redistricting emphasize what it claims to value and avoid splitting counties into multiple different districts unless they are too big to fit within a single district.
Logically, Marion, Chase, and Morris counties could be put together — totally intact — to form the basic outline of a legislative district that might pick up pieces of some larger nearby counties.
That would ensure we would have a voice in Topeka instead of being carved up like leftovers with half of Marion County thrown in with a district that include parts of two other counties — suspiciously leaving out Herington — and the other half assigned to a district that encircles but does not include Newton.
Where legislators live and what existing districts’ boundaries are should play no role in deliberations.
If legislators merely do what they claim is their first priority and preserve existing city and county boundaries wherever possible, we’ll get a legislature that’s mapped fairly. If not, it’ll be just more political shenanigans designed to keep others in power and Marion County on the outside looking in.
— ERIC MEYER