Kansas redistricting town halls are still on for next week. Here is how to participate.
Kansas lawmakers are planning on continuing a slate of town halls for the public to weigh in on the once-in-a-decade redrawing of Kansas' Congressional and legislative districts, even though legislators will simultaneously be in a special session.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman's office confirmed Tuesday the plan would be to continue with two previously scheduled town halls, which are set to be held virtually on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23.
"If people are asking if we are planning on cancelling the meetings, we are not," said Eric Turek, a spokesperson for Ryckman.
Those two days will largely be consumed by an upcoming special session on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which lawmakers have scheduled for Monday — the same day as the first of those hearings.
While legislators have said they aim to keep their proceedings to one day in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, any deviations to the plan could see the session drag out over the course of the week.
Two hearings the week of Nov. 29 will likely be unaffected by the Legislature's return to Topeka.
Politicians are tasked with redrawing political maps based on new population counts, and the town halls are supposed to help inform that process. Lawmakers already held 14 meetings across the state in August.
But Democrats and nonpartisan voter advocacy groups, including the League of Women Voters, claimed that cramming all of the meetings into one week didn't create a fair and transparent opportunity for voter participation. Republican leadership disagreed but promised to hold more meetings later.
While those groups cheered the second round of hearings, they also raised concerns that the timing — around Thanksgiving — would dissuade turnout. Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, also argued the committee charged with forming the criteria used in drawing maps should meet before the second round of meetings.
How to participate in redistricting town halls
Each meeting will be held virtually, with a handful of physical sites for individuals to go to in-person if they lack internet access. Each of the state's four congressional districts will have their own hearing.
The Nov. 22 meeting is geared toward the 2nd Congressional District, with locations at Atchison, Native American reservations, Ottawa and Independence.
The Nov. 23 meeting for the 1st Congressional District has locations in Emporia, Great Bend, Liberal and McPherson.
The Nov. 29 meeting for the 4th Congressional District has locations in Newton and El Dorado.
The Nov. 30 meeting for the 3rd Congressional District has locations in Stilwell and Bonner Springs.
People who want to testify must contact the Legislative Research Department, either by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 785-296-3181. Testimony must be submitted at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing.
Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 443-979-6100.