Only hours after it was released, the new schedule of town hall meetings for Kansas redistricting was already coming under fire from Democrats.
The complaints came furiously on social media shortly after the schedule was released at about 6 p.m. on Friday.
“Kansas voters deserve a fair, transparent redistricting process with ample opportunity for citizen participation,” Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes said in a statement emailed out at about 5 a.m. on Saturday.
“Republicans are treating redistricting the same way they treat the legislative process: Hastily, sloppily, and with as little opportunity for deliberation and public input as possible,” Sykes said.
In an interview, Sykes expressed concern that the town hall meetings were announced with a little more a week before the first one and that all 14 were being held in one week with 75 minutes allotted for each one.
“Three town halls in a day. That’s like data overload for the committee,” she said. “How do you really do a good job making sure you’re engaging properly?”
Republican leadership was developing a response to the Democratic Party’s complaints.
Democratic Party Chair Vicki Hiatt said the scheduling was part of a “devious scheme” to gerrymander the congressional districts.
“By releasing the schedule near sundown on a Friday night and cramming the hearings into just one week and giving only a few days notice to the public, the Kansas Redistricting Committee’s Schedule shows what a sham the redistrictng processs has become,” Hiatt said in a statement.
Lauren Martin, chair for the Kansas Democrats in the 3rd District, also questioned the scheduling of the meetings.
“Can someone please explain to me how rolling this out on a Friday night (10 days before the first one) and hosting most of them during the workday isn’t a shameless attempt to suppress participation,” Martin tweeted.
Back in 2011, a 36-member legislative redistricting committee toured the state from July 26 through Oct. 20, according to a published account in the Pittsburg Morning Sun.
The committee started in Wichita on July 26 and ended in Colby and Hays on Oct. 20.
The meetings held in Wichita, Manhattan, Salina, Hutchinson, Chanute and Pittsburg, were set for 21/2 hours each.
And at least on three occasions, two meetings were held during the same day.
The 2021 hearings will come at about the same time that the Census Bureau is set to release in-depth demographic statistics that will be used to redraw legislative voting districts.
The data is scheduled for release by Aug. 16, which follows the April 26 release of statistics that determined each state’s representation in the U.S. House.
The Census Bureau stopped collecting population data last Oct. 15, but missed a deadline for providing reapportionment data because of the pandemic and anomalies found in the data.
Michael Poppa, executive director of the Mainstream Coalition, also criticized the timing of the hearings, noting the meetings were limited to 75 minutes.
“This is the antithesis of transparency and decency,” he tweeted. “The majority party has made very clear their intentions for redistricting from the beginning. ”