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County splits cities in final district plan

Staff writer

County commissioners decided Thursday on a five-district map for addition of two commissioners.

Both Marion and Hillsboro will be split into two different districts, and two of the districts will not be contiguous, with some part of each district isolated from the remainder of the district.

Although state law does not require that districts be contiguous, it does require that they be as compact as possible, and numerous federal court rulings have struck down districting plans elsewhere that include non-contiguous districts.

Bryan Caskey, director of elections for the Kansas secretary of state’s office, said drawing district lines was entirely up to the county.

“As far as I know there is no entity that has official legal oversight,” Caskey said. “We will not be reviewing the lines.”

District lines can be redrawn after four years.

“I just feel like we should try this for four years, then we can change if we want,” commission chairman Dianne Novak said.

The five districts preserve the seats of all three incumbent commissioners by ensuring that they reside in separate districts:

  • District 1, represented by Kent Becker, will include Moore, Lehigh, Durham Park, and Risley townships and the east half of Hillsboro.
  • District 2, represented by Novak, will include Logan, Blaine, Colfax, Clark, Lost Springs, and Clear Creek townships and then skip south a full township to include the north half of Marion.
  • District 3, represented by Randy Dallke, will include Liberty, East Branch, Catlin, Peabody, Summit, and Milton townships.
  • District 4, which will elect a new commissioner, will include Gale, Wilson, Centre, Fairplay, Grant, and Doyle Creek townships and the south half of Marion.
  • District 5, which also will elect a new commissioner, includes Menno and West Branch townships, then skips over a township to include the west half of Hillsboro.

Commissioners next turned their attention to deciding when to hold a commissioner election. Options include holding a special election or adding candidates to the November 2019 ballot.

In either event, the Republican and Democratic parties have 25 days after the governor’s declaration of the new districts to nominate a candidate.

New commissioners will serve a one-year term the first time they are elected, a two-year term after the second election, and then a four-year term after the third election.

Novak called for a special election in March.

“We will have money coming back from the economic development,” Novak said.

When Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. voted to fold, board members decided to pay outstanding bills, refund city money in full, and return the balance to the county. The amount of money to be returned to the county remains unknown.

Dallke and Becker, however, preferred a November election.

“Candidates can file in January and have nearly a year to campaign,” county clerk Tina Spencer said.

The vote to hold the election in November was two to one with Novak opposed.

“I’m not one to drag my feet,” Novak said.

Last modified Dec. 24, 2018

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