While most area residents have a basic familiarity with the local issues and candidates on the Nov. 5 election ballot by now, some early voters have found themselves “unprepared” to decide on a particular statewide issue.
Next week, ballots across Kansas will include a “yes” or “no” option on the recently-proposed Eliminate Revision of Census Population Amendment to the state constitution. A “yes” vote will support ending the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature. A “no” vote would oppose the amendment and continue the state’s current adjustment practices.
Although the issue may sound confusing on the surface, the decision is really just a matter of updating somewhat outdated laws, according to Lyon County Clerk and Election Officer Tammy Vopat.
In the past, the census adjustment has had the most noticeable effect on municipalities with active US Army bases such as Leavenworth and Fort Riley as well as cities with major universities such as Lawrence and Manhattan.
Emporia’s population has also seen minor adjustments due to ESU’s presence. Since the 1990s, the law has counted college students not where they’re currently living but often in “permanent” homes in other communities, or even outside the state. Still, in 2010, only 13,000 people out of 2.9 million were affected.
“This whole thing started with the State Legislature supporting the elimination of the adjustment with a bipartisan supermajority, which is needed to have a vote to amend the state constitution,” Vopat said. “So, this change was championed there. Kansas is actually the only state in the union that does that type of adjustment to the census. The idea of the change is really to make things more uniform across the nation.”
Vopat continued to say one of the most likely benefits of the proposed change — which would go into effect next year, if passed— would be a significant savings to state residents.
“That adjustment costs the state of Kansas over $800,000 to taxpayers every time they choose to do that, so you can see why it’s an issue they’re looking at,” Vopat said. “It also will give our lawmakers an additional legislative session to complete the redistricting process. Our legislative and State Board of Education districts will be drawn using the same numbers as the congressional districts.”
Regular advanced voting is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the Lyon County Courthouse and will remain open until noon Monday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5 during the general election, which also includes votes for positions on the city commission and Emporia Public Schools Board of Education as well as the USD 253 bond issue.