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Kansas Voters, Nonprofit Ask Court to Toss Congressional Map

February 14, 2022 by Dan McCue
<strong></img>Kansas Voters, Nonprofit Ask Court to Toss Congressional Map</strong>
Kansas City. (Photo by Colton Sturgeon via UnSplash)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A lawsuit filed by Kansas City voters and the nonprofit Loud Light claims a newly drawn congressional district map must be thrown out because it unlawfully dilutes the vote of Black and Hispanic voters in and around the city.

“Republican legislators made it abundantly clear from start to finish that they were gerrymandering themselves to their desired political outcome, no matter whose rights they were trampling along the way,” said Marina Jenkins, director of litigation and policy for the National Redistricting Foundation, which filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“Today … Kansas voters and the nonprofit organization Loud Light are asking the court to strike down the newly enacted congressional map with a challenge filed in,” Jenkins continued. “Specifically, the lawsuit claims the map to be a partisan gerrymander that also dilutes the vote of Black and Hispanic voters in and around Kansas City, in violation of a number of provisions in the Kansas Constitution.”

The suit, filed in Wyandotte County District Court, claims the map meticulously cracks apart communities across the state, diluting the voters and voices of Democrats, young people and communities of color.

Based on the results of the 2020 census, Kansas will maintain the same number of congressional seats over the next decade, and the most populous and diverse part of the state is the Kansas City metropolitan area. 

Instead of maintaining a largely status quo map, as supported by the trends demonstrated in the census data as well as their own guidelines, Kansas Republicans enacted a congressional map that inexplicably shifts a large number of Kansans out of their prior districts, in violation of the state’s redistricting guidelines. 

This practice primarily targeted Wyandotte and Douglas counties in and around Kansas City, which include predominantly Democratic voters and voters of color. 

Specifically, the plaintiffs claim, the newly enacted congressional map cracks the Black and Hispanic communities of Kansas City into two separate districts, and dilutes 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 new map unnecessarily divides the metro area in half. 

By using Interstate 70 as a dividing line that runs through the middle of Kansas City, the new map follows a division that adds insult to injury for the communities of Wyandotte County. Initially built in the 1950s as part of the Kansas Interstate, the portion of I-70 traversing Wyandotte County divided up minority communities decades ago. The congressional map now divides that county along the same line, reinforcing those racial scars.

The map also splits apart Douglas County, which contains the city of Lawrence and is one of the more diverse counties in Kansas, with about one in four residents identifying as a member of a minority community. The enacted congressional map places Lawrence into a separate district from the rest of Douglas County in spite of a 2012 court ruling against this tactic. 

The 2012 court decision specifically said that the areas were “more appropriately placed entirely within” the same district. The splitting of these communities is a textbook case of “cracking,” the new complaint says.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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