Kansas Supreme Court Upholds GOP-Friendly Congressional Map

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld a GOP-friendly congressional map Wednesday, reversing a lower court decision that tossed out the map due to allegations of gerrymandering.

With the congressional map now approved by the Sunflower State’s highest court, Democrats will have a tougher battle to retain their sole congressional seat in the district held by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) than they have had in the past.

“A majority of the court holds that, on the record before us, plaintiffs have not prevailed on their claims that Substitute for Senate Bill 355 violates the Kansas Constitution. Therefore, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the permanent injunction ordered by the district court is lifted,” the court wrote.

JUDGE INVOKES BUDDHA AND THROWS OUT KANSAS REDISTRICTING MAPS IN BLOW TO GOP

A lower court ruling last month deemed the map an “intentional, effective partisan gerrymander” and ordered the legislature to go back to the drawing board. However, the high court determined the map did not violate the state’s constitution.

The decision clarifies district lines for congressional contenders ahead of the June 10 filing deadline for prospective candidates. Democrat Tom Sawyer, the minority leader of the Kansas House, quickly condemned the ruling.

“Unfortunately, the decision regarding Congressional maps opens a Pandora’s box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future,” he said. “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.”

Republicans hold three of the state’s four congressional seats. Seeking to make that a 4-0 seat advantage, Republicans moved roughly 46% of the black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the 3rd Congressional District, which is held by Davids. During the 2020 election, the district voted for President Joe Biden by 11 percentage points but would have gone for him by only 4.5% if the election took place under the new map. The map, named Ad Astra 2, notably divides the diverse Wyandotte County for the first time in 40 years, per the Kansas City Star.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D-KS) vetoed the map in February over concerns about diminished representation for minority voters in the 3rd District, but the Republican-led state legislature overrode her veto.

A lawsuit against the map was filed on behalf of Kansans who argued the map diminished the voting power of minorities. The Democrat-controlled state Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday is its first in a case over gerrymandering and sets a precedent for similar cases in the future, KCUR reported. Previous disputes over congressional apportionment in the state had been handled by federal courts.

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With Kansas’s congressional map reenacted, there are only three remaining states without legally binding congressional lines, including Missouri, New Hampshire, and New York. Roughly a dozen states have litigation pending over their maps.

Democrats started the new year with a flurry of redistricting triumphs in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. But Republicans steadily gained the upper hand, securing breakthrough victories in Florida and, more recently, in New York. The party is now poised to gain three to four congressional seats from redistricting, according to several estimates.

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