Kansas Secretary of State explains ballot question regarding census numbers

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab wants voters to be reminded of an additional item on their ballot this November.

“Back sometime in the 1980s, the Legislature changed the way we do census numbers,” said Schwab. “What’s interesting is, this adjusted census number does not apply to Congressional seats. It only applies to the Legislator seats and the state school board. Basically, when the U.S. Census Bureau hands us those census numbers, our office would then call every college student and military member and ask them, do you want to be counted where the Census counted you, or do you want to be counted someplace else?”

This delays getting the number to the Legislature and it’s also expensive.

“It will cost the state over $830,000 to do it and it really doesn’t change that many,” said Schwab. “Most people just say, hey count me wherever the census counted me. What we’re asking the people to do is just strike that provision that was written in the 1980s in the Kansas Constitution and let those census numbers just be the census numbers every other state in the country would use.”

The justification for the different count in the 1980s was in an effort to slow the statistical outmigration of kids from rural to urban areas.

“In the 1980s, they foresaw that and the more rural legislators were trying to find a way to pad the numbers in the rural areas,” said Schwab. “They put this provision in there, which was the way they
used to do the old ag census. The problem is, it didn’t really work.”

Last time, the count actually favored urban areas, but because the Legislature ultimately draws the district lines, it really doesn’t make an appreciable difference.