Garner responds to Kansas Supreme Court opinion on redistricting

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner responded to a Kansas Supreme Court decision upholding a Kansas Legislature congressional redistricting map that split Wyandotte County.

“In light of the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling, to say we are disappointed is an understatement,” Mayor Garner stated in a news release.

“In my opinion, the challenges it poses for Wyandotte County to have representation that reflects a unified vision for the interest and values of our residents has in effect been compromised.

“We recognize that those living north of 70 with a median income of $35,000 will now compete with those living south of 70 with a median income of $50,000. We also realize that the reapportionment of our county may place our residents in direct competition with other Kansans whose needs greatly differ, that may cause priorities to be subject to enhanced scrutiny.

“We are not just a Unified Government, but a unified community. I pray that this new dynamic does not shatter the spirit of shared values and interests that splitting our county’s desire for equitable representation may bring to a community that is still struggling to receive the attention and economikc investment that can not just improve Wyandotte County’s standing but more importantly p eople’s lives.

“With that being said, Wyandotte County is a resilient community comprised of dedicated people that are determined to enhance and improve the quality of life for all those that call Wyandotte County home. As Mayor, I will continue to fight to be a voice of hope for the improved destiny of our residents, not just today but well into the future.”

Adkins statement:

Amanda Adkins, a Republican candidate for U.S. Representative, 3rd District, issued this statement:

“The map released today is evidence that our democratic process works,” said Adkins. “I welcome the people of Anderson, Franklin, and southern Miami counties to KS-03 and am excited to get to work for the new district, a thriving community of urban, suburban, and rural areas. ”

“KS-03 deserves a Congresswoman who has a plan for our community. There are so many crucial issues that Washington should be working to address right now, from rising prices at the grocery store and the gas pump to the crisis at our southern border,” Adkins stated. “I’m running for Congress to work towards solutions to these issues and to help get our country back on track.”

“My team and I are ready to hit the ground running in the new district and I look forward to representing the people of Anderson, Franklin, Johnson, Miami and Wyandotte counties in Congress.”

ACLU statement

The ACLU in Kansas issued this statement:

“We’re obviously very disappointed for our clients,” said Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. “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.”

Lawyers in the three plaintiff cases said they will not appeal.

The state’s candidate filing deadline is June 1, Kansas ballots sent to military service members must be mailed by June 17, and the primary election is in early August.

“The Kansas Supreme Court’s reversal of the lower court’s decision is a slap in the face to voters and runs afoul of the democratic values spelled out in Kansas’ own Constitution,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center. “The Kansas Legislature crafted gerrymandered maps that purposefully divide Kansans based on their race and political views to serve their political interests instead of the community’s needs. Campaign Legal Center will continue fighting for fair maps, because Kansas voters deserve to choose their politicians instead of the other way around.”

Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper said in a previous ruling that the state Constitution protected against political gerrymandering that divided communities of color.

“This court suggests most Kansans would be appalled to know how the contest has been artificially engineered to give one segment of the political apparatus an unfair and unearned advantage,” Klapper wrote.

ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic said the fight will continue.

“This case is only one skirmish in the wholesale assault on democracy in Kansas and around the country,” Kubic said. “Although today’s ruling is disappointing, we will continue to use every ounce of energy we’ve got to defend democracy and protect our shared values. In defending democracy and our values, we don’t give up, we don’t give out, and we don’t give in. As politicians in Kansas continue to try to denigrate our democracy, the ACLU, our supporters and our partners will be there to stand in their way.”

Schmidt statement:

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued this 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.”

Statement from Tom Sawyer, House Democratic leader

House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer released this statement:

“I’m happy to see the Court agreed with the Legislature that the Kansas House maps are fair. They were passed with wide bipartisan support and that is reflected in the Court’s opinion.
Unfortunately, the decision regarding Congressional maps opens a pandora’s box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future. Lawrence does not belong in the Big First and Wyandotte should not have been split. Residents of western Kansas, Lawrence, and Wyandotte all agreed on this throughout the redistricting process and made this clear to the Joint Redistricting Committee. The voters in Lawrence and Wyandotte will be silenced by this decision.
Because the Court ruled the Kansas Constitution was not violated, this decision makes clear it’s time for an amendment that clarifies gerrymandering is unconstitutional and prohibited in the state. I call on my colleagues to bring a constitutional amendment to the ballot on this issue.”

Supreme Court of Kansas explores constitutionality of revised congressional redistricting map

Kansas attorney general files appeal after district court declares map unconstitutional

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Justices of the Kansas Supreme Court stepped into an explosive legal and political drama Monday triggered by the Legislature’s decision to split the state’s most diverse county between two congressional districts and relegate Lawrence to the rural conservative 1st District reaching into western Kansas.

A Wyandotte County District Court judge ruled the map carving the state into four congressional districts based on the 2020 U.S. Census violated the Kansas Constitution. Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court seeking reversal of the judge’s opinion in a case that consolidated three lawsuits against Secretary of State Scott Schwab and election officials in Douglas and Wyandotte counties.

The 20 individual plaintiffs argued the map strategically engaged in partisan gerrymandering to undermine Democrats and diluted the voice of minority voters in violation of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

Brant Laue, the Kansas solicitor general and representative of Schmidt during oral argument before the Supreme Court, said the federal courts were the proper jurisdiction for a gerrymandering case and the state courts in Kansas shouldn’t be entering into the political map-making fray. He said the Legislature did nothing improper that would justify invalidating action by elected representatives and senators on a U.S. House map.

“For the first time in Kansas history, the court has invalidated a congressional redistricting map holding partisan gerrymandering violates assorted provisions of the Kansas Constitution, which have never before been applied in this way,” Laue said.

The Republican majority in the Legislature secured passage of a Kansas map of U.S. House districts that offered the GOP a better chance of unseating U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, the Democrat serving the 3rd District, which has included all of Wyandotte and Johnson counties. In addition to moving a diverse population in Wyandotte County to the 2nd District, Republicans in the Legislature shifted liberal Lawrence from the 2nd District to the conservative 1st District.

The alignment of congressional districts was viewed as favorable to Republican U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann of the 1st District, U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner of the 2nd District, U.S. Rep. Ron Estes of the 4th District and to likely 3rd District Republican candidate Amanda Adkins. Adkins lost to Davids in 2020, but the new map would no longer include the top half of Wyandotte County, which is considered a Democratic stronghold.

The map’s challengers referenced comments made two years ago by former Senate President Susan Wagle, who said the Republican Party needed a supermajority in the House and Senate to craft a congressional map designed to deliver GOP wins in all four districts. The GOP used those two-thirds majorities to produce the map and override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of their plan for distributing constituents among U.S. House districts.

‘Government retaliation?’

Justice Dan Biles, appointed to the court by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the state Legislature adopted a congressional map that involved “targeting other citizens” for the way they voted in the past.

“Why can’t this also be about political retaliation — let’s say government retaliation?” Justice Biles said. “Action against these people based on what they’ve done in the past. Isn’t that government retaliation?”

Laue said he disagreed with Justice Biles’ premise and nothing in the court record suggested a majority of the Legislature engaged in an electoral vendetta.

“To say that this is some sort of retaliatory claim is simply wrong,” Laue said. “It’s politics. There are winners and losers in politics.”

Sharon Brett, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, told justices the trial judge in Wyandotte County concluded the Legislature engaged in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the state constitution.

The Legislature’s map ran contrary to the state’s Bill of Rights, which declared all people had equal rights, that all political power was inherent in the people and that government existed for the equal protection and benefit of citizens, she said.

“Racial voter dilution and partisan gerrymandering are antithetical to those core constitutional principles,” Brett said. “It classifies and favors one group of voters over another. It distorts and manipulates the map to advantage those in power.”

The Kansas case is highly unusual because previous lawsuits challenging redistricting boundaries were filed in U.S. District Court.

Lali Madduri, of the Elias Law Group in Washington, D.C., said the Kansas judicial branch, as a co-equal branch of government, had the power to review and, if necessary, strike down acts of the Legislature that violated the constitution. To read the federal constitution in a way that would limit ability of Kansas courts to remedy violations of the state’s constitution was contrary to bedrock notions of federalism, she said.

“It’s repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts,” Madduri said. “No court has endorsed their radical argument, and this court should not be the first.”

Peoples’ constitution

Attorney Stephen McCallister, who represented a Douglas County plaintiff, said it was wrong for the Republican majority in the Legislature to rip Lawrence from the rest of Douglas County so the city’s voters would be less relevant in congressional elections.

“They’re not serving the people here. They’re serving themselves,” McCallister said of the GOP-crafted congressional map. “This court is the protector of the peoples’ constitution.”

He said the state Supreme Court should uphold the district court’s ruling declaring the map unconstitutional. If a majority of justices agreed, he said, the Supreme Court shouldn’t mandate the Legislature redraw the map. The justices could set a deadline for delivery of a revised map and allow the Legislature to decide whether it was interested in trying a second time.

“There’s no reason this court couldn’t do it,” McCallister said.

If the Kansas congressional map was ruled constitutional by the state Supreme Court, the boundary lines would be relied upon for the next 10 years if not successfully challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the justices affirmed District Court Judge Bill Klapper, the Legislature could seek an appeal before the nation’s highest court.

Judge Klapper, appointed to the district court by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback in 2013, published a 200-page opinion in April that said Kansans expected lawmakers to create political maps that resulted in “a level playing field devoid of partisan advantage for one group.” He said the constitution protected against political gerrymandering that divided communities of color.

“This court suggests most Kansans would be appalled to know how the contest has been artificially engineered to give one segment of the political apparatus an unfair and unearned advantage,” Judge Klapper wrote.

The Supreme Court didn’t issue a decision in the congressional map case at the end of more than two hours of argument. The state’s candidate filing deadline is June 1, but that could be extended by the Supreme Court. A secondary timeline issue is that Kansas ballots sent to Kansas military service members must be mailed by June 17. The primary election is Aug 2.

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Kansas Supreme Court set for high-stakes oral argument on legislative, congressional maps

Justices obliged to review state House, Senate maps; U.S. House map is on appeal

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — League of Women Voters co-president Martha Pint wants the Kansas Supreme Court to declare new district boundary maps for the Legislature’s House and Senate districts a violation of the Kansas Constitution.

Pint, in preparation of the Supreme Court’s oral argument Monday on the maps, said the Legislature allocated 125 House districts and 40 Senate districts in ways that intentionally fractured neighborhoods with high racial and ethnic minorities and purposefully weakened minority voting strength in Wichita, Olathe, Leavenworth and Kansas City, Kansas.

She said state lawmakers also violated redistricting guidelines while constructing maps based on Kansas population shifts chronicled in the 2020 U.S. Census.

“These maps do not adhere to the principles adopted and we ask the Kansas Supreme Court to consider the process behind the creation of the maps as integral to the final product,” Pint said. “Truly representative districts are vital at all levels of government and Kansans deserve a fair process.”

Under the state Constitution, the Legislature must produce every 10 years updated maps for the Kansas House, Kansas Senate, Kansas Board of Education as well as the state’s four U.S. House districts.

The Kansas Supreme Court will review state House and Senate maps contained in Senate Bill 563 in response to a petition filed April 25 by Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The Supreme Court is required to issue an opinion on the legislative maps within 30 days of Schmidt’s initial filing.

Schmidt, who is a candidate for governor, recommended the Supreme Court validate the legislative maps. The candidate filing deadline is typically June 1, but the court’s rejection of the maps could force a postponement to buy time for the Legislature to redraw the maps or take other legal action. The statewide primary election is Aug. 2.

Schmidt filed a response to written comments on legislative maps submitted to the Supreme Court from “any interested person.” In Schmidt’s rebuttal submitted to the Supreme Court, the attorney general dismissed some criticism as “irrelevant” or unworthy of a reply.

He did answer complaints raised about the Legislature’s alleged political gerrymandering, dilution of minority voting and targeting of incumbents.

“Anyone who believes a redistricting map is unfair or dissatisfying in some respect can claim gerrymandering, but there is no legal standard to measure such claims,” Schmidt said. “Entertaining political gerrymandering claims would require this court to substitute its political judgment for that of the Legislature and plunge this court into a political morass.”

Schmidt said individuals claiming impermissible voter dilution along racial lines provided “no evidence” to the Supreme Court. He said redistricting inevitably had political consequences, including pitting incumbents against each other. One such person, Democratic Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City was placed in a new district where he’d have to run in 2024 against incumbent Republican Sen. Beverly Gossage of Eudora. Holland filed a brief challenging the Senate map.

Other comments submitted to the Supreme Court in objection to the House and Senate maps delved into the Legislature’s bipartisan public listening tour in 2021, the Legislature’s guidelines for mapping decisions, compactness of new legislative districts and the undermining of communities of interest.

Schmidt said no legal deficiency was identified in terms of the Legislature’s tour of more than a dozen communities to gather public input. Redistricting guidelines were the work of an “advisory group” and the Legislature wasn’t required to adhere to any of those ideas, he said.

“The guidelines are not law,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt argued the Supreme Court had no role in reviewing House and Senate maps in terms of splitting communities of economic, political, social or geographic interest. Supreme Court precedent, he said, indicated “the fact that someone who may have drawn different lines does not render a map invalid.”

In addition to oral argument Monday on state House and Senate maps, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear argument in the attorney general’s appeal of a Wyandotte County District Court judge’s ruling that the congressional map was unconstitutional.

Twenty people filed lawsuits challenging the congressional map. Some objected to shifting half of Wyandotte County out of the metropolitan 3rd District and placing it in the 2nd District extending from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The map pulled Lawrence out of the 2nd District and inserted it into the rural 1st District that crosses the state to the Colorado border.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Marla Luckert set argument on the Legislature’s reapportionment of state Senate and House districts for 9 a.m. Monday and argument on the congressional map at 1:30 p.m. Monday. The sessions will be livestreamed on

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