Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Controversial Redistricting Maps
TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Republican-drawn congressional map that divides a racially diverse portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area, despite concerns the new district lines will dilute the minority vote.
As previously reported in The Well News, the lawsuit challenging the map, Rivera v. Schwab, was filed in February 2022 by Kansas voters and the nonprofit organization Loud Light with the support of the National Redistricting Foundation.
The lawsuit claimed the map, known as “Ad Astra 2,” inexplicably shifted a large number of Kansans out of their prior districts, in violation of the state’s redistricting guidelines.
This practice primarily targeted the Kansas counties of Wyandotte and Douglas, which include predominantly Democratic voters and voters of color.
Specifically, the plaintiffs said, the Republican gerrymander of congressional maps split the Black and Hispanic communities of Kansas City into two separate districts, and diluted the votes of those communities by lumping them into districts that are overwhelmingly White and Republican.
Instead of preserving the Kansas City metro area in one congressional district, the gerrymandered map unnecessarily divided the metro area in half.
Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper agreed, calling the map passed over the veto of Gov. Laura Kelly earlier this year to be “motivated at least in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength.”
“The court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that ‘Ad Astra 2’ is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans,” Klapper said.
He went on to say it “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”
Though the Kansas Supreme Court voted to overrule Klapper, the details won’t be known until the court releases a full opinion on the matter.
The state’s highest court also voted to uphold “Validity of Substitute for Senate Bill 563,” certifying the validity of the newly redrawn state House and Senate districts.
As a result of Wednesday’s decision, the injunction against the newly redrawn districts has been lifted and elections officials across the state can now move forward with their election plans.
In a written statement, Marina Jenkins, director of litigation and policy for the National Redistricting Foundation, said her organization was disappointed with the ruling.
“From start to finish, Kansans from across the state were shut out of the redistricting process. From public comments being ignored, to backroom deals, to curbing Kansans’ ability to respond to draft maps,” Jenkins said. “That led to a map that splits apart communities that have been kept together in the same congressional district for decades. To add insult to injury, it led to a map that diminishes the voting power of communities of color — communities that drove population growth in the state. This is not the result the voters of Kansas deserved.”
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