TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Gov. Laura Kelly has vetoed the controversial ‘Ad Astra’ map on Thursday.
With the veto, Senate bill 355 will now go back to the Kansas House and Senate, where it will require a supermajority vote of two-thirds of the members in each body in order for it to be passed into law.
“The process of drawing districts each decade is the core to ensuring that all Kansans have the opportunity to participate in their government and have their voices heard,” Kelly said. “The courts and the Legislature have established case law and criteria on how to draw Kansas districts fairly and constitutionally.”
Kelly went on to say that the guidelines for drawing congressional districts 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. She said that Senate bill 355 does not follow the guidelines and has no justification for deviating from them.
“Without explanation, this map shifts 46% of the Black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the third congressional district by dividing the Hispanic neighborhoods of Quindaro Bluffs, Bethel-Welborn, Strawberry Hill, Armourdale and others from Argentine, Turner and the rest of Kansas City, Kansas south of I-70,” Kelly said.
Kelly ended her comment on the decision to veto Senate bill 355 with a call for compromise.
“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,” Kelly 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.”
Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch of the Kansas Republican Party all released the following statement:
“This isn’t the first time the Legislature has had to step up to protect Kansans from Laura Kelly’s partisan agenda. It is no coincidence she pulled out the veto pen just hours after the ACLU told her to. It’s clear she is beholden to New York’s special interests. The Legislature is bound to do what is best for Kansans, and we won’t back down from that responsibility.”
Kelly’s decision was applauded by Democrats in the Kansas legislature. House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer said that the decision was justified as it was “the most gerrymandered map I have seen in my legislative career.”
“This afternoon, Governor Kelly vetoed the gerrymandered congressional map, Ad Astra 2. This was the right move, and I heartily applaud her for taking such a strong stance against the dilution of the minority vote in Kansas,” Sawyer said. “Accountability is integral to the redistricting process, and this is an appropriate, and necessary, exercise of the checks and balances system.”
Senate Bill 355, which introduced the controversial “Ad Astra” map, was approved by both the Kansas House on Jan. 26 at a vote of 79-37 and by the Senate on Jan. 21 at a vote of 26-9. Opponents of the map have said that it will have a negative impact on minority voting strength in the City of Lawrence and in Wyandotte County.
The new map would have split the 3rd District along Interstate 70 between Wyandotte and Johnson County. The 3rd District would have included a portion of Wyandotte County south of I-70 along with all of Johnson, Miami, Franklin and Anderson Counties. The 3rd District is currently held by Representative Sharice Davids, the only Kansas Democrat in Congress.
GOP lawmakers promised to try to override the veto. However, if they do, the new lines are likely to face court challenges.