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Kansas Supreme Court upholds new congressional map

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 9:16 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH/AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s new congressional map does not violate the state’s constitution. Therefore, the state can move forward with the new map.

The Kansas Senate passes the Ad Astra 2 redistricting map on Jan. 21, 2022.
The Kansas Senate passes the Ad Astra 2 redistricting map on Jan. 21, 2022.(Kansas Senate)

The Republican redistricting law makes it harder for the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation to win reelection.

“Make Sharice Davids’s district probably a toss-up for her this fall and one that she can never take for granted even if she survives this fall. Also, what’s really important about this map is it makes the second district safe for Republicans. The Second has had several close elections recently,” said Dr. Neal Allen, a Wichita State political scientist.

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to declare for the first time that the Kansas Constitution forbids overly partisan gerrymandering.

Democrats argued that the map was drawn to help Republicans unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, while Republicans called it a fair map. It split the Kansas City area between two districts and put Lawrence in the 1st District with central and western Kansas.

The map has survived a Governor’s veto and a lower court ruling in April that invalidated the map.

The map faced three separate lawsuits. One of them was filed by the Campaign Legal Center, who called the decision disappointing, especially after the ruling by the lower court.

Campaign Legal Center Legal Fellow Sam Horan said, “Courts have really a fundamental role in our system of government providing a check on laws like that infringe on people’s fundamental right to vote, which is the basis of our democracy.”

The state Supreme Court’s full opinion has yet to be released, detailing the full reasoning behind the ruling.

“Usually, the people that have the power want to keep the power and that’s what’s going to happen in Kansas. If Kansans don’t like this process, then what they need to do is elect very different representatives to the legislature who are then willing to put constitutional amendments on the ballot to the state constitution,” said Dr. Allen.

As a matter of protocol, the state’s high court also approved a new map for the state’s legislative districts.

Rep. Sharice Davids released the following statement after the Kansas Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Kansas Congressional map:

”From rushed hearings to backroom deals for votes, the redistricting process did not instill a sense of transparency or confidence in the people of Kansas. I hope that although many feel their voice was not heard, they do not feel as though their voice does not matter.I look forward to introducing myself to the new voters in the Third District, continuing my work to find common ground and tackle the everyday issues facing our community, and showing all Kansans that to me, their voice matters.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued the following statement on the Kansas Supreme Court decisions released this morning, which upheld the legislatively enacted reapportionment maps for both the state legislative and federal congressional districts:

“Today’s decisions confirm that the legislative and congressional reapportionments of Kansas enacted by the Legislature this year are constitutionally sound. We have successfully defended every Kansan’s right to equal protection of the law in exercising their right to vote, as well as the public’s right to establish new districts through their elected representatives. It is regrettable that Kansas taxpayers have had to bear the unnecessary cost of successfully defending the duly enacted congressional reapportionment against multiple lawsuits backed by out-of-state activists. I am grateful for the expeditious manner in which the court announced the outcome of the cases, and this year’s candidate filings and election preparations can now proceed.”

Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa) and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), issued the following joint statement:

“We were pleased to see the decision of the Kansas Supreme Court today upholding the redistricting maps drawn by the people’s legislature. The court recognized what we have said all along, these maps are the result of a fair, open and thorough process based on public input and grounded in constitutional principles. We thank Attorney General Schmidt for his work in diligently representing the will of the people as expressed in the maps.”

In a joint statement from GOP Leadership in the Kansas Senate, Senate President Ty Masterson, Vice President Rick Wilborn and Majority Leader Larry Alley said:

“We are extremely grateful for this ruling and are appreciative that the majority of the Kansas Supreme Court, led by Justice Luckert, recognizes the appropriate separation of powers and the role of the Kansas Legislature to enact policy. In this case, following a lengthy and deliberative process, the legislature listened and took input from Kansans and enacted a set of maps that are fair for all and are consistent with the historically recognized redistricting guidelines.”

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita) also said the following Wednesday:

“I’m happy to see the Court agreed with the Legislature that the Kansas House maps are fair. They were passed with wide bipartisan support and that is reflected in the Court’s opinion.

Unfortunately, the decision regarding Congressional maps opens a pandora’s box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future. Lawrence does not belong in the Big First and Wyandotte should not have been split. Residents of western Kansas, Lawrence, and Wyandotte all agreed on this throughout the redistricting process and made this clear to the Joint Redistricting Committee. The voters in Lawrence and Wyandotte will be silenced by this decision.

Because the Court ruled the Kansas Constitution was not violated, this decision makes clear it’s time for an amendment that clarifies gerrymandering is unconstitutional and prohibited in the state. I call on my colleagues to bring a constitutional amendment to the ballot on this issue.”

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