By Gene Meyer
TOPEKA, Kan. – Nearly 14,000 fewer Kansas residents than the U.S. Census counted last year actually live here, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office reported Tuesday.
Most of them are members of the military on active duty or college students whose official residences are somewhere other than where the U.S. Census Bureau found them last April 1, according to a new decennial report needed to begin redistricting efforts in the 2012 legislature.
State legislators on Tuesday coincidentally held public hearings in Wichita and Hutchinson Tuesday to begin gathering public opinion on how to redraw Congressional, Kansas House and Senate, and Kansas State Board of Education district boundaries to adjust for population changes reflected in that latest national census.
Those hearings continue today in Salina and Manhattan, and on Aug. 2 in Chanute and Pittsburg. Further hearings are planned in September in Overland Park, Lawrence, Kansas City and Leavenworth, and in October in Dodge City, Garden City, Colby and Hays.
New U.S. Census figures released in March counted 2,583,118 Kansas residents, 6 percent more than in 2000, and a shift in the state’s population from primarily rural northern and western counties to the state’s urban centers in the Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka areas.
Adjusted figures that subtract military members and college students who call other states home, released Tuesday by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, counted 2,839,445 Kansas residents, a drop of 13,673 people or just less than one half of one percent.
The Kansas adjustments make bigger differences inside the state, where legislators next session will be required redraw legislative boundaries so that each of Kansas’ 125 House districts represents as close to 22,716 residents as possible and each Kansas Senate District represents 70,986 residents.
Tuesday’s report counted more than 10,000 fewer residents than the U.S. Census did in Kansas House District 66, represented by state Rep. Sydney Carlin of Manhattan and which includes the Kansas State University campus. The University of Kansas campus and homes around it, represented by both state Rep. Barbara Ballard and House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, similarly lost the same number.
Legislative districts near those campuses, and where many in state students call home, gained in the adjustment. Kansas House District 29, represented by state Rep. Pat Colloton of Leawood, a half-hour commute from Lawrence for example, gained 623 residents in the adjustment. House District 106, represented by state Rep. Sharon Schwartz of Washington, just north of Manhattan, gained 412.
New boundaries for Kansas’ federal, state and state board of education districts will be redrawn by legislators this summer and after the 2012 legislature convenes in January. Once those are passed and signed by the governor, the state attorney general’s office will petition the Kansas Supreme Court to determine the plans are valid. If they aren’t lawmakers and the governor have two more chances to come up with plans that are.