Saturday, May 25, 2024

Redistricting Without Census Data May Jeopardize Voting Rights in Kansas City

The City Council in Kansas City, Missouri may be jeopardizing the voting rights of minorities in order to reach a deadline of drawing up new district boundaries before the March 2011 election.

The council is required, as mandated by the city charter, to find a way to redraw its boundaries by this date.  However, census population and ethnicity numbers, which are the most useful in accurately drawing up new boundaries wouldn’t be available until after the fact.  No matter what the city opts for it may very well end up getting sued.

“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” Councilman John Sharp said.

If districts were to be redrawn now they would be based on 10-year-old racial date from the Census Bureau, which civil rights groups and others say are no longer reliable.  A lawsuit under the federal Voting Rights Act could promptly follow they warn.

One group, the Hispanic Civic Engagement Project, recently wrote to council members opposing redistricting at this time.  The group of seven Latino nonprofit agencies said they were exploring their legal options to ensure “an inclusive redistricting process.”

“The Constitution and federal law are higher authorities than the city charter,” Sharp said. “My preference is not to redistrict based on guesstimates of population. I think Kansas City should redistrict every 10 years when we have actual census data, just like everyone else does.”

Leaders from within the African-American and Hispanic communities say the use of outdated data could unfairly dilute the vote of the minority community.

A citizens advisory committee was formed in order figure out how to proceed and will meet for the first time this week.  It will be led by Jane Brown, a federal prosecutor and retired associate circuit judge.  City manager Troy Schulte agreed to add a Hispanic community representative after the Hispanic Civic Engagement Project pointed out the lack of Hispanic representation.
Kansas City Star


  1. Sounds like a catch-22…hopefully they don’t violate one of their citizens’ most precious of rights, Voting rights!