By Teri L. Hansen
On Nov. 5, voters will decide whether or not to put an end to a practice that only the State of Kansas still utilizes. At the bottom of the ballot is a vote to eliminate the adjustment of census taken by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding nonresident military personnel and students. This is the only statewide question for voters this election.
Essentially, Kansas adjusts its census numbers to reflect students and military personnel at their permanent residences, rather than where they are currently located. Numerous lawmakers have shown support of ending this practice that they have deemed “antiquated and expensive.”
Secretary of State Scott Schwab has publicly advocated for eliminating the practice, even going so far as to voice it on the official website for the Secretary of State.
In the spring, the Legislature approved the amendment with no senator voting against it and only seven representatives in opposition. Both Sen. Richard Wilborn and Representative Les Mason voted in favor.
“It’s the right thing to do, I encourage people to support it,” Wilborn said. “We are the only state that still does it this way.”
Adjusted numbers are used for state lawmakers and the state board of education to redraw districts. Those in favor of it argue that this will simplify the count and give lawmakers more time for redistricting. Schwab has also stressed the financial implications of the elimination. It is his office that completes the adjustment. They have, in the past, hired temporary employees for the adjustment which requires a time consuming process of contacting every military/college student who filled out the Census in Kansas. If this continues, Schwab estimates a cost of $835,000 in 2020.
“I find it very interesting that Kansas is the only state in the nation paying around $835,000 to make this adjustment,” McPherson County Clerk Hollie Melroy said. “In my opinion, $835,000 could be better spent elsewhere.”
A small number are opposed to the amendment. The majority of them from rural areas who fear the negative impact for the smaller parts of the state.
“Especially our college-age kids will now be counted in Manhattan or Hays, and Lawrence, and I’m concerned it’s going to change our representation possibly,” Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican said.
In 2010, the responses to the Secretary of State inquiry resulted in 15,577 people being counted in different counties and the state’s population decreasing 13,673, a change of 0.48%.
Questions have come up about how to vote correctly on the issue. The ballot can be confusing. For those looking to end the census adjustment, they should mark the YES circle. For those wanting the census adjustment to continue, mark the NO circle.