Thoughts on Equity is a new blog series presented by the Kansas Health Foundation to feature written, video and audio content from president and CEO Teresa Miller. Through this blog, Teresa will discuss issues of equity, systemic racism, health disparities and how Kansans have the opportunity to shape a more equitable and inclusive future.
Important town hall meetings are being held in communities across Kansas next week (Aug. 9-13) and your voice is needed. These meetings are part of a listening tour to receive public comments on the Kansas legislature’s redistricting process. Redistricting is a process aligning voting districts with 2020 U.S. Census Bureau information, to assure fair and equitable representation of all residents. Fair representation is the foundation of civic engagement, voter participation and building stronger communities in Kansas. At the Kansas Health Foundation, we believe a healthy democracy depends on redistricting being a fair and balanced process.
Encouraging your neighbors and friends to participate is vital, as these redistricting maps will be used for the next 10 years. This is essential to ensure representation of community interests and advocating for the needs of those who live there. These town hall meetings are to hear from “everyday Kansans.” This is not just for business leaders or local elected officials, but for anyone who cares about having strong schools, healthy communities and elected representation in Topeka and Washington DC to advocate for their community interests.
Your voice will help influence redistricting work of the Kansas legislature in the 2022 session – drawing boundaries of the four congressional districts, the state legislative districts (House and Senate) and the State Board of Education districts. While redistricting was designed to be a nonpartisan process based on population changes, unfortunately, it has become political over the years. You may have heard the term “gerrymandering,” where district boundaries are changed to benefit one political party. When district boundaries are changed to minimize a community’s influence, this reduces their voting power and hinders true representation of community interests and needs. We believe that gerrymandering, a form of voter suppression, and unfair redistricting processes, have real potential to further promote racial and health inequities among Kansans.
The town hall meeting schedule was recently released, and unfortunately, many meetings next week are being held during daytime hours when most people are working. That itself is a barrier for many Kansans who might want to participate. In addition, individuals wishing to speak during the meeting MUST email written testimony a day in advance of the meeting (by 5 p.m.) in a “PDF” format. The KS Fair Maps Coalition, a nonpartisan group of Kansas nonprofit partners, also has great information available at ksfairmaps.org.
I was encouraged to learn that next week’s meetings are only a first step in this process, and that another round of meetings will be held this fall, both with options to attend virtually and in-person.
I hope you will strongly consider attending one of the 14 meetings next week and submitting testimony to encourage a fair and balanced process. And, if you can’t make it to any of these meetings, I encourage you to attend one this fall. Redistricting boundary maps approved in the 2022 legislative session will be used for 2022 elections in Kansas. As we learn more about the upcoming steps and process, we will keep you informed.
Please remember, your voice matters and so does the voice of your community.
You can find specific information below on meeting dates, times and locations, and how to sign up to speak and submit testimony.
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