Lawsuits filed in Kansas over controversial redistricting map

The two lawsuits allege that the map is partisan and racially gerrymandered.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 11:52 AM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KWCH) -The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas (ACLU), along with the Campaign Legal Center, on Monday filed a lawsuit in Wyandotte County District Court to block the new redistricting map. Both Republican-controlled Houses voted last week to override a veto of the map by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Democratic party attorneys on behalf of Kansas youth civic engagement group, Loud Light filed another lawsuit in response to the map.

“Huge concerns about the legality of this map and more importantly really, the impact it will have on the people of Kansas,” said Loud Light President Davis Hammet.

The map has drawn criticism because splits Wyandotte County in the Kansas City metro area between two districts and separates Lawrence from the rest of Douglas County by putting it in the “Big First” district that covers central and western Kansas. The ACLU called the map partisan and racially gerrymandered in an effort to oust the state’s only Democrat in Congress, Sharice Davids.

“We argue that the new map cracks the most racially diverse county in Kansas in half in an attempt to dilute the voices of minority voters. This partisan map was passed in a rushed process that took less than two weeks, egregiously ignoring an abundance of public input,” the ACLU said in a statement.

ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic said putting Lawrence in the First Congressional District doesn’t make sense.

“The idea that you would stretch a district all the way from the far western corner, Colorado, all the way over to Lawrence, and to put communities that clearly have nothing in common with one another in the same district is just absurd on its face,” Kubic said.

A main argument in the lawsuits is that splitting Wyandotte County in half between the second and third districts splits apart communities of interest in the state’s most racially diverse county.

“It’s like surgical precision, how they carved this to dilute minority voting strength and to dilute essentially democratic voting strength to ensure Republicans win all these elections,” Hammet said.

Also on Monday in Wyandotte County, a team of attorneys led by prominent Democratic attorney Marc Elias filed the lawsuit regarding the map. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has said the state is “prepared to vigorously defend them [every person’s vote] against any partisan political lawsuits that long have been threatened.”

In response to the lawsuits, Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson who played a key role in developing the redistricting map and led the effort to override the governor’s veto issued the following statement:

“It is no surprise that Democrats are trying to sue to make Kansas blue, since they are struggling at the ballot box. The Ad Astra 2 Map creates compact and contiguous districts with zero deviation, preserves existing district cores, and groups together communities of interest. It is also politically fair, keeping all four members of Congress within their current seats, and each would have still won had the map been in place in 2020.”

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