TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the congressional map lawmakers drew despite a lower judge’s argument that it violates the rights of Kansans.
The court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Caleb Stegal, was released Wednesday morning. The state supreme court made the decision after hearing oral arguments Monday.
Lawyers in the three cases that led to this redistricting debate do not plan to appeal, the ACLU of Kansas said.
Democrats didn’t support the “Ad Astra 2” map mainly because of its affect on voters in Wyandotte County and Lawrence.
The northern part of Wyandotte County will go into District 2, which includes Topeka, but also rural communities across eastern Kansas. It’s currently represented by Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner.
People in southern Wyandotte and Johnson counties will still be in District 3, currently represented by U.S Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democrat from Kansas in Congress.
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 redraw of the map makes the 3rd District race much more competitive. Davids beat likely Republican Challenger Amanda Adkins by 10% in 2020, and she won Johnson County by nearly 7%.
“From rushed hearings to backroom deals for votes, the redistricting process did not instill a sense of transparency or confidence in the people of Kansas. I hope that although many feel their voice was not heard, they do not feel as though their voice does not matter,” Davids said in a statement Wednesday.
“I look forward to introducing myself to the new voters in the Third District, continuing my work to find common ground and tackle the everyday issues facing our community, and showing all Kansans that to me, their voice matters.”
Adkins spoke with FOX4 Wednesday.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Adkins said when asked about the state supreme court decision. “The most important thing that I can tell people here in the Kansas City region is that the issues that are important in Johnson and Wyandotte County, they’re the same issues that are important out south, too, and people are very concerned about inflation particularly as it pertains to gas prices and the rising cost of groceries.”
Adkins thinks the new map may give her a 2-3 point advantage. A spokeswoman for Davids, meanwhile, said 92% of the voters who were in the district in 2020 are still in the district under the new map.
Ad Astra 2 also puts a more liberal Lawrence in the “Big 1st,” which covers all of western Kansas, typically more conservative.
Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the congressional district map, but lawmakers in both chambers were able to get the votes needed to override her decision.
Then the congressional map headed to court after three lawsuits were filed. The plaintiffs, led by Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, said the map gives minority Democrats essentially no chance at electing the Congressional representative they want, claiming the map racially dilutes their vote.
After the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday, the Brett with the ACLU released a statement, saying in part:
“We’re obviously very disappointed for our clients. Equal protection under our state’s constitution is supposed to mean something. But as a result of this decision, minority voters and Democratic voters will have their voices diluted for the next ten years. The ACLU of Kansas will never stop fighting for the rights of all Kansans, and this decision won’t change that fact.”
Meanwhile, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who was considered the defendant in these lawsuits and is also a candidate for governor, released the following statement:
“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.”
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