By JOHN HANNA
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Partisan bickering among Kansas legislators over redistricting has intensified even before their first public hearings on how to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
Democrats are complaining that 14 town hall meetings across the state are scheduled over only five days, starting next Monday. Each is an hour and 15 minutes and 10 of the events are during the day. Democrats see an attempt to limit public input.
“The integrity of the redistricting process is compromised,” said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat.
Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing the redistricting process.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, said Tuesday that next week’s town halls are only the first step in redistricting and that a legislative committee also will have additional, virtual town hall meetings during the fall.
The Republican-controlled Legislature must redraw congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts next year. Lawmakers are required to account for shifts in population since 2010 and make districts as equal in numbers of residents as possible. Partisan considerations often loom large in lawmakers’ discussions.
Redistricting debates grew so contentious in 2012 that lawmakers failed to pass any plans and a panel of federal judges drew new lines.