Kansas Supreme Court issues full opinions on legislative, congressional redistricting cases

Justices outline details of decisions affirming constitutionality of maps

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — The Kansas Supreme Court released full opinions Tuesday of decisions affirming constitutionality of new congressional and legislative district maps for use in the 2022 elections that concluded reliance on partisanship to gerrymander district boundaries wasn’t prohibited.

Justice Caleb Stegall, writing for the majority in the congressional mapping case, said absence of standards in the Kansas Constitution or in Kansas statute limiting the Legislature’s use of political factors when crafting boundaries left the Supreme Court without a basis to reject work of state lawmakers.

“We can discern no judicially manageable standards by which to judge a claim that the Legislature relied too heavily on the otherwise lawful factor of partisanship when drawing district lines,” Stegall said in the 105-page opinion on the congressional map. “As such, the question presented is a political question and is nonjusticiable, at least until such a time as the Legislature or the people of Kansas choose to codify such a standard into law.”

In May, the Supreme Court released a notice reversing Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper. He had found unconstitutional the congressional map splitting racially diverse Wyandotte County between the 2nd and 3rd Districts and moving liberal-leaning Lawrence to the rural 1st District.

The state’s highest court let stand the “Ad Astra 2” congressional map drafted by Republican legislators and adopted over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto.

That GOP map contained in Senate Bill 355 was designed to undermine reelection prospects of U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, the lone Democrat in the state’s federal delegation.

The Supreme Court also affirmed last month constitutionality of the map outlining districts of the Kansas House and Kansas Senate. In the subsequent analysis Tuesday, Stegall wrote in a 15-page opinion the Legislature’s recasting of the 125 House and 40 Senate districts was “not a perfect plan,” because no “district reapportionment plan ever is.”

He said contents of Senate Bill 563, which applied 2020 Census figures to the remapping task, did comply with the Kansas Constitution.

“The Legislature used the procedure required by the Kansas Constitution to pass the bill,” said Stegall, an appointee of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. “The legislative maps contained in Sub. SB 563 also satisfy the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote; they are not discriminatory; they satisfy the requirements of the Voting Rights Act; and they raise no additional constitutional concerns.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/06/21/kansas-supreme-court-issues-full-opinions-on-legislative-congressional-redistricting-cases/