We have received a few inquiries regarding the constitutional amendment appearing on the November ballot. This amendment, which passed the Kansas Senate unanimously and the House on a vote of 117 to 7, eliminates a process by which the state of Kansas adjusts the results of the census.

During the session, KNEA did not take a position on this amendment and we are neutral now. It is supported by Secretary of State Scott Schwab, by the League of Women Voters, and by a number of other organizations. We believe that each voter needs to decide how to vote based on the best information possible.

To that end, we are sharing below an explanation from the Mainstream Coalition. We believe this to be an easy to understand explanation of the issue. In full disclosure, the Mainstream Coalition supports the amendment.

We hope this information helps you in deciding how you will vote on this measure.

From the Mainstream Coalition:

On your ballot on November 5th (yes, every Kansan has a ballot to cast this November 5th) there will be an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to eliminate how the state will adjust the results of the 2020 Census.

Last week, we pointed out that amendments to the Kansas Constitution can represent a last gasp for extreme policies that have failed to take legislative hold, and we described two such proposed amendments.

But this amendment does not include broad policy changes, and has wide bipartisan support, including from Scott Schwab, the Kansas Secretary of State (SoS).

What is it?

The amendment would end the practice of following up a national census with a specific Kansas adjustment centered on college and military populations in the state. As it stands now, the KS SoS is required to survey these people to ask where they would like to be counted: where they are posted, or where they live when not posted.

College students, who spend nine months of the year in Manhattan, for example, might indicate they want to be counted back home in Salina. If they are from out of state, a member of the military posted to Fort Riley might indicate they want to be marked as residing in their hometown in Ohio.

Why change that?

There are two reasons to make the change proposed in the amendment.

First, the process costs a lot of money, and takes a lot of time. The KS SoS estimates that for the upcoming Census, the process would cost Kansas over $800,000, and reduce the amount of time for the 2022 redistricting process by 3 to 6 months. (See this great information from the League of Women Voters for more)

Second, the Census is designed to help states and the Federal government allocate funding for services and programs depending on how many people live in a given community. For a decade, until the next Census in 2030, the resources for those communities will be dependent on the 2020 Census count. College students and military personnel spend most of the year on campus or on base. The resources to support them should go to those communities for infrastructure, libraries, health services, community organizations, and other public services.

The Kansas Census adjustment process is expensive, time consuming, and can leave cities or counties without funds to support their community.

What’s the inside story?

At MainStream, we try to explain the nuance of politics in a straightforward way. And yet, politics does not seem to be a primary motivation for this amendment. There are some suggesting that this would end up favoring urban centers over rural ones, or would hurt more conservative parts of the state, but the effect would be small.

In the end, the original legislation (SCR 1605) passed the KS Senate unanimously, and the KS House 117-7 to be placed on the ballot in November.