Kansas Governor Rejects District Map Setting Up Showdown

February 4, 2022 by Dan McCue
Kansas Governor Rejects District Map Setting Up Showdown
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly

TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday rejected a Republican-drawn congressional district map that critics said would dilute minority voting power and effectively gerrymander the state’s lone Democratic Congress member out of office.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature are expected to quickly try to override Kelly’s veto, setting the stage for the map to face further challenges in state and federal court.

In a lengthy veto message, Kelly said the map, called Ad Astra 2, violates guidelines set by court precedent and the legislature itself. 

“Those guidelines call for ensuring that districts are nearly equal to 734,470 in population as practicable while ensuring that plans have neither the purpose nor effect of diluting minority communities’ voting strength,” she wrote.


The guidelines also call for protecting communities of interest, preserving the core of existing congressional districts and ensuring that whole counties are in the same congressional district if possible. 

They further state that “to a considerable degree most counties in Kansas are economic, social and cultural units, or parts of a larger socioeconomic unit. These communities of interest should be considered during the creation of congressional districts.”

“Senate Bill 355, known as Ad Astra 2, does not follow these guidelines and provides no justification for deviation from those guidelines,” the governor said.

The flashpoint for the controversy revolves around changes to the former district lines in the Kansas City region.

But some changes were inevitable after the 2020 census. In anticipation of a disappointing map from the Republicans, Democrats and some non-partisan voting rights groups pushed for consideration of a map that nipped and tucked around the fringes of the existing district to bring its population in line with others in the state, but kept the heart of the district whole.


The Republicans went another route, splitting counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area and extending the district into more rural areas to the south and west of the city.

The governor said the new map shifts 46% of the Black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., “without explanation.” 

The new map, according to several media reports, would make Davids’ district a toss-up in 2022, a year in which Republicans hope to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Davids has not commented on Kelly’s video, and her Twitter feed Thursday night was filled with tweets on the coronavirus, prescription drug prices, supply chain issues and aid to women-owned businesses.

If the governor’s veto is not sustained, lawsuits to challenge the map are almost a certainty, and at present, Democrats hold a clear advantage on the Kansas Supreme Court, a venue that could wind up deciding the fate of the map.

But Kelly tried to strike a conciliatory note in her veto message. 

“Several alternatives would allow for the same deviation as Ad Astra 2 while protecting the core of the existing congressional districts and without diluting minority communities’ voting strength,” she said. 


“I am ready to work with the legislature in a bipartisan fashion to pass a new congressional map that addresses the constitutional issues in Senate Bill 355. Together, we can come to a consensus and pass a compromise that empowers all people of Kansas,” she concluded.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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