TOPEKA, Kan. (WDAF) – The Kansas Supreme Court upholds the congressional map drawn by lawmakers. The majority opinion was released Wednesday morning.
The court made the decision following oral arguments Monday on the congressional district lines the legislature drew.
The state Supreme Court declined, for now, to declare that overly partisan gerrymandering violates the Kansas Constitution. The ruling sets district boundaries less than a month before the state’s June 10 filing deadline for congressional candidates.
The court’s opinion was two paragraphs long, saying only that the voters and voting rights group challenging the map “have not prevailed on their claims” that the map violated the state constitution and that a full opinion would come later.
The brief decision was written by Justice Caleb Stegall, who is seen as the most conservative of the court’s seven justices, five of whom were appointed by Democratic governors. During arguments from attorneys on Monday, he questioned whether anyone could clearly define improper partisan gerrymandering.
Democrats didn’t support the map because it split Wyandotte County. The northern part of Wyandotte County would go into Congressional District 2, represented by Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner.
People in southern Wyandotte and Johnson County would still be represented by Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democrat from Kansas in the U.S. House, but the Republican party hopes they can take the seat away from her if the new lines stay in place. Democrats think that’s why Wyandotte County was split up in the map and not Johnson County.
The plaintiffs, led by Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, says the map gives minority Democrats essentially no chance at electing the Congressional representative they want, claiming the map the way it was drawn, racially dilutes their vote.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican running for governor, hailed the ruling:
“Today’s decisions confirm that the legislative and congressional reapportionments of Kansas enacted by the Legislature this year are constitutionally sound. We have successfully defended every Kansan’s right to equal protection of the law in exercising their right to vote, as well as the public’s right to establish new districts through their elected representatives. It is regrettable that Kansas taxpayers have had to bear the unnecessary cost of successfully defending the duly enacted congressional reapportionment against multiple lawsuits backed by out-of-state activists. I am grateful for the expeditious manner in which the court announced the outcome of the cases, and this year’s candidate filings and election preparations can now proceed.”
Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes statement on the decision:
“Legislators take an oath to uphold our state constitution when we assume office. While today’s Supreme Court decision is disappointing, I respect the unprecedented nature of this case and the court’s position on the legislative outcome.
“But make no mistake: this process did not serve the Kansans we are elected to represent. Kansas Republicans disrespected, ignored, and gaslit engaged voters from the very start. While that isn’t unconstitutional, it is unacceptable. Kansans should continue to hold legislative leadership to task for their consistent refusal to accept that, despite their best efforts, our residents are not a monolith and have a different vision for our state from the GOP’s. Continuing to engage with the legislative process and challenging these leaders is integral to ensuring our democracy is not further eroded by the party in charge.”