Kansas AG set to appeal district court’s decision ordering legislature redraw congressional map
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update: Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt notified the Wyandotte County District Court Monday afternoon that he is appealing its decision to strike down the new congressional map and order the Legislature to redraw the districts. In a more-than-200-page ruling, the judge sent the map back to be redrawn by the Kansas legislature.
In the decision, the judge said the map was politically gerrymandered and dilutes the voice of minority voters.
“It’s a vindication of the rights of the clients we represent and all of the voters in Kansas that they represent,” said ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Sharon Brett.
ACLU of Kansas is one of the groups challenging the map. Much of the case deals with how Wyandotte is divided and how Lawrence moved into the Big First, the state’s biggest, mostly rural district. The case argued that as part of Kansas’ constitution, the redistricting process prevents political gerrymandering and mitigating minority voters.
“Having a ruling that really vindicates the rights of Kansans based on our own state constitution is incredibly meaningful, and we’re grateful that [the judge] saw this map for what it was and called a spade a spade,” Brett said.
Schmidt criticized the judge’s ruling and defended the legislature’s work in establishing new congressional boundaries for Kansas.
“Today’s Wyandotte County District Court decision may be the first redistricting case ever to make use of folk-song lyrics, the Buddha, and personal memories from the judge’s childhood. The state is promptly appealing,” said Schmidt.
Republicans still supporting the map are putting their hopes in the state Supreme Court, saying changes to congressional boundaries were needed because of the state’s population and that this is part of the process.
“Any of these maps have to go through that. This is unique cause it is at the state level where it’s never been done that way before,” said House Redistricting Committee Chair Rep. Chris Croft R-Overland Park. “There is some uniqueness to that process, but it’s still part of the overall process. I understand where we’re at and I’m accepting of that. "
If the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it would be a tight turnaround for the legislature to redraw the congressional map. The first deadline for this year’s election is June when candidates need to be filed to run.
A Wyandotte County judge has struck down a new map for Kansas’ four congressional districts. Three lawsuits were filed against the map which made changes to the boundaries of current congressional districts.
Critics called revisions “gerrymandering,” saying it disenfranchised voters, particularly in the Kansas City area by splitting the city between two districts. The plan also carves Lawrence out of the rest of Douglas County putting the traditionally liberal community in the largely conservative and rural First District which stretches across western Kansas.
In the ruling, the judge said the map violates the rights of Kansans. The judge ordered lawmakers to come up with a remedial plan as soon as possible, but the litigation is far from over as the ruling will be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
State lawmakers must re-draw those districts every 10 years to adjust for changes in population.
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