What's that you're voting on? Confusion over November ballot question

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"This is impossible to understand," said Elda Engel.

One question on the November ballot every Kansan will see is confusing voters already.  The few who even know it's there, that is. 

Tuesday, KAKE News sat down with three Kansas voters to ask them about the constitutional question on the November ballot. 

"A vote for this proposition would eliminate the adjustment of census taken by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding non-resident military personnel....," Engel read.

After reading it, they still didn't know what lawmakers are asking them to decide.

"Is this like gerrymandering? Like that?" asked Engel.

Basically, lawmakers are asking you to fix something they did back in the 80s, essentially un-amending the state constitution.

"Initially, in the '80s, there was an attempt to stem the flow from the rural areas into the urban areas," Rep. Henry Helgerson, (D-Wichita), explained.  He was in the Kansas House at the time and sat on the House Appropriations Committee that first heard this year's proposed reversal legislation.

In the 1980s, lawmakers decided the Secretary of State should contact all university students and military personnel listed on the census, congregated in cities like Wichita, Manhattan, Junction City, and ask them if they really, truly consider that city their home.  Or, do they want to be counted elsewhere?

"We're the only state in the union that does this," Helgerson said.  "We think that it's better for Kansas in the long run if we change it."

So why does all this matter?  The Census numbers, the original set from the federal government every other state uses or the adjusted numbers Kansas was collecting, helps the state decide where to draw those district lines for your state representative and state senator.  It also has an impact on just how much money your city or county might get from the state.  The problem?  That was an expensive project for the state.

"We found that to do the counting in the military area and the universities cost an additional $830,000 to $850,000 worth of staff time," Helgerson said.

The Secretary of State's office says this re-count not only cost the state extra money, it failed to make any appreciable changes to the overall Census results.

Learning all that left our voters thinking it's time for a change, too.

"Sounds like a smart move to eliminate costs and expense and time that we don't need to spend.  There's plenty of that in the government already," Becky Robertson laughed.

To be clear: the Secretary of State's office says a yes vote on this question means getting rid of the extra work and cost.  A no vote means keeping things the way they've been since the '80s.