TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday on the congressional district lines the legislature drew.
The defendant in the case was Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who’s also running for governor. Schmidt did not argue though. Solicitor General Brant Laue did that for him. Laue said politics have always been involved in drawing congressional districts.
“The United States and the Kansas Constitutions wisely entrust this task to the political actors in the Kansas Legislature,” Laue said in front of the Kansas Supreme Court.
The legislature drew a map, but it’s one Democrats don’t like. The northern part of Wyandotte County would go into Congressional District 2 that’s represented by Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner.
People in southern Wyandotte and Johnson County would still be represented by Congresswoman 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.
Justice Dan Biles asked Laue why Johnson County wasn’t split up. Laue said it was the legislature’s decision.
“You’ll see in the record that the members in the legislature that articulated reasons, and they’re in the legislative record, said among other things that Johnson County was considered the ‘economic engine of Kansas,’ and a group of chambers of Commerce asked them not to split Johnson County,” he continued.
The plaintiffs, led by Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, say 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.
“They were moved out of Congressional District 3 and into Congressional District 2 where their votes, I believe as one expert put it, will ‘border on electoral irrelevance,” she said in front of the Supreme Court Monday.
Schmidt spoke to the media after the arguments were made.
“There’s a reason that this is the first time in Kansas history that the plaintiffs challenging a federal map have come to state court and asked it to apply state law,” he said. “It’s because they know they would have lost in federal court under the current state of federal law, where the U.S. Supreme Court has said, ‘There is no political gerrymandering claim available.'”
Brett on the other hand, said the right to vote and make a difference in who your representative is, is an important right.
“The ability of the legislature to run roughshod over those rights in service of partisan gains is really the question.”
There’s no word when the Supreme Court will decide on the map the legislature drew, but lawmakers are back in session Monday, May 23.
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