Douglas County Commissioners will continue their discussion about map options and the process for moving to five Commission Districts during their Wednesday, Dec. 14, meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., on the second floor in the Commission meeting room. The meeting also is available by Zoom. Meeting information is posted here: http://dgcoks.org/commissionmeetings. Commissioners will discuss five proposed map options. (Details of these maps are included at the bottom of this story as well as a list of precincts by proposed districts). There will be an opportunity to hear from the public on the five districts during the meeting.
Community members also can provide feedback through this form. It will be open until the County Commission makes a decision.
Douglas County Commissioners will adopt a resolution outlining the new districts before or on Jan. 1, 2023. All of the districts need to be contiguous and have the same population size. Within five days from adoption of the resolution, Governor Laura Kelly — with advice from County Commissioners — will either:
- Call for a special election to be held between 75 and 90 days from the date of the board resolution, or
- Declare election for new districts at the next general election
If a special election is called, the chairs of each recognized political party calls a convention not less than 15 days or more than 25 days from the Governor's declaration where a candidate will be chosen. Independent candidates can submit a petition of not less than 5% of qualified electors in the new district no more than 25 days from the declaration. Candidates must reside in the new district and only voters in the new district will vote in the special election. The winners will serve until the next general election where the successors will be chosen.
If the general election is decided, candidates for new Districts 4 and 5 would be elected in 2024 and would serve a two-year term (2025-2029).
A town hall meeting was held Dec. 1 at the fairgrounds where about 80 people attended. These proposed map options were discussed. County Clerk Jamie Shew provided a presentation about the process and proposed maps. The presentation can be viewed on our YouTube channel and the slides can be found here. Commissioners also discussed proposed map options during their Dec. 7 meeting. The meeting can be viewed here and the discussion about five districts begins at the 2:40:23 mark.
FAQs from town hall meeting
Q: If we do this now and experience significant growth from the Panasonic project, will the county redistrict again in 3 years?
A: Kansas statute does allow a county to review and revise district lines every three years. This can be accomplished using the estimated population numbers published by the Kansas Secretary of State on July 1 of each year. These numbers are aggregated by larger areas rather than precinct level, but could be used for review.
Q: The "Spoke" map does not ensure commissioners are elected from rural parts of the county. How can we ensure more rural representation?
A: Under the United States and Kansas Constitutions, any eligible elector who resides in a district must have the opportunity to file for, run and serve for an office in their district. It would be unconstitutional to have districts where residents of one area could be told they can’t run for office. The only way a district would guarantee representation from an area of the county is if the district only contains precincts from the area of focus.
Q: Can the townships be kept whole?
A: One of the guidelines is to keep townships whole, if possible. Wakarusa Township is currently divided by the City of Lawrence, so North Wakarusa would most likely not be in the same districts as the remainder of Wakarusa Township.
Q: Why are community members not allowed to vote on the final mapping decision?
A: Kansas law states the final decision on district boundaries is given to the current county commission.
Q: The "Spokes map" has too much city representation. How can we ensure the county has more representation?
A: By law, the districts must be compact, contiguous and have equal population size. With 80% of the population residing in Lawrence, having equal size districts means most districts have to include Lawrence precincts. The “County” map does have a possible district with only areas outside of Lawrence, but the remainder would have to include Lawrence precincts.
Q: Can you provide more clarification on the difference between a general election and a special election, including how a special election would work and how candidates would be selected?
A: For a special election, each party will select a candidate at a convention where the precinct committee persons vote on the candidate. An independent candidate can submit a petition signed by more than 5% of the registered voters in the new district to also be included on the ballot. Those candidates will be on the ballot for a special election for the two new districts only. There is no primary election for a special election. The cost of a special election will be paid for by the county. A general election would have a primary consisting of the candidates filed by June 1, 2024. The winners in the primary would move to a general election.
Q: Can we start District 5 smaller to allow room for population growth?
A: There is a deviation of up to 5% of the ideal number allowed for the districts. The districts must use the current population numbers. The lines can be reviewed and revised in 3 years based off of the current population estimations of that year.
Q: Will existing boards and appointments be increased by two along with the increase in the Board of County Commissioners (particularly the Planning Commission)?
A: Not necessarily. Each existing board has separate by-laws, so by-laws would need to be reviewed. County appointments to the Metropolitan Planning Commission are made by the whole Board of County Commissioners - not to individual Commission Districts.
Q: What will the zoning regulations in rural communities look like after re-districting?
A: They will remain the same.
Q: When will the final map be announced?
A: The County Commission will make a decision during one of their meetings on or before Jan. 1, 2023. The decision will be announced on the county website and social media.
Q: Will there be opportunities for additional public input through community surveys?
A: The public can weigh in on the five districts through this feedback form: http://dgcoks.org/districtfeedback
Q: How will the county get the information to the public? Will it be on social media or by mailing?
A: The county will continue to post information on its website, through social media and the county newsletter. The county works with local media, including the Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence Times, Eudora Times and KLWN, to distribute information.