Kansas judge rejects congressional map; appeal promised

Apr 25, 2022, 9:16 AM | Updated: 3:15 pm
FILE - Students cross Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus ...

FILE - Students cross Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. A Republican redistricting law puts the campus and its hometown of Lawrence in a congressional district with western Kansas, but a judge has struck the law down as unconstitutional on Monday, April 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner File)

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner File)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district court judge on Monday struck down a new Republican-backed congressional map that would likely make it harder for the only Democrat in the state’s delegation to win reelection this year.

It was the first time a court has declared that the Kansas Constitution prohibits political gerrymandering. The state attorney general’s office notified the Kansas Supreme Court almost immediately to expect an appeal of the decision.

Lawsuits over new congressional-district lines have proliferated across the U.S. with Republicans looking to recapture a U.S. House majority in this year’s midterm elections. State courts have issued decisions favoring Democrats in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and a new GOP map in Florida is being challenged. A mid-level appeals court in New York recently declared its new districts drawn unfairly to favor Democrats.

Monday’s decision from Wyandotte County District Judge Bill Klapper in the Kansas City area came a little more than five weeks before the state’s June 1 candidate filing deadline. He ordered legislators to draft another map after declaring that the challenged one not only was too partisan but diluted minority voters’ political clout.

“The Buddha says the only consistent thing in the universe is change. One does not have to be a Buddhist to realize change is always taking place,” Klapper wrote in his 209-page opinion. “We must not be naive enough to believe change can be prevented by suppressing its voice.”

Democrats have criticized the map as political gerrymandering. Lawsuits claimed it violated voting rights and constitutional guarantees of equal rights for all Kansas residents and freedom of speech and assembly. Critics also said the map was unacceptable under the state constitution because it diluted the political power of Black and Hispanic voters in the Kansas City area by splitting them up.

Top Republican legislators immediately dismissed the ruling as coming from a partisan judge because Klapper is an elected Democrat.

“Nobody is shocked by that result,” said Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican. “So on to the next step, which we all expected to be at.”

The map moved the northern part of Kansas City, Kansas, out of the 3rd District represented by Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids and into the larger 2nd District of eastern Kansas represented by Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner. Kansas City, Kansas, is among the few Democratic strongholds in the GOP-leaning state. Davids lost territory where she performs well, while the new map added several rural, heavily Republican counties to her district.

The map also moved the liberal northeast Kansas city of Lawrence — another Democratic stronghold and home to the main University of Kansas campus — out of the 2nd District. The city of 95,000 is now in the already sprawling 1st District of central and western Kansas with small conservative communities, some six hours away by car.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat, jumped up and down with joy in a Statehouse elevator when she learned of the ruling. She noted that she had argued repeatedly that the map was gerrymandering that hurt minority voters.

“I’m glad they saw it for what it was,” Ballard said.

Klapper ruled in three consolidated lawsuits filed by a voting rights group, Loud Light, and 20 voters in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, the state’s top elections official, and local elections officials are the defendants.

The state argued that Davids’ district emerged slightly more competitive than it had been. They also said the changes were driven by the need to satisfy past federal court decisions requiring districts to have as equal a number of residents as possible after 10 years of population shifts.

The state’s attorneys also argued that nothing in the Kansas Constitution allows state courts — rather than federal courts — to review congressional maps or to consider political gerrymandering as an issue. Federal judges have decided challenges to Kansas’ congressional redistricting in the past; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that complaints about partisan gerrymandering are political issues and not for the federal courts to resolve.

Klapper wrote: “But when the Kansas Legislature violates the Kansas Constitution, including in its enactment of congressional redistricting legislation, Kansas courts have the power and duty to exercise judicial review and invalidate the Legislature’s unconstitutional action.”

Meanwhile, the Kansas Supreme Court has until May 25 under the state constitution to rule on a separate law redrawing Kansas House, Kansas Senate and State Board of Education districts.

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual...
Associated Press

Trump’s vulnerabilities for 2024 mount after new testimony

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (AP) — Stunning new revelations about former President Donald Trump’s fight to overturn the 2020 election have exposed growing political vulnerabilities just as he eyes another presidential bid. A former White House aide this week described Trump as an unhinged leader with no regard for the safety of elected officials in either […]
22 hours ago
FILE - People calling for a climate solution demonstrate outside of a hearing of the California Air...
Associated Press

Court leaves dwindling paths for Biden’s climate mission

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 500 days into his presidency, Joe Biden’s hope for saving the Earth from the most devastating effects of climate change may not be dead. But it’s not far from it. A Supreme Court ruling Thursday not only limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution by power plants, […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A brief patch of early morning sunlight brightens the landscape around the Greenidge Generat...
Associated Press

New York officials rule against bitcoin-mining power plant

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York officials denied required air permit renewals Thursday to a bitcoin-mining power plant on the grounds that it was a threat to the state’s climate goals. The permitting decision was another example of New York putting the brakes on a cryptocurrency bonanza that has alarmed environmentalists. It also comes at […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chamb...
Associated Press

Wisconsin’s conservative high court hands GOP another weapon

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court handed Republicans their newest weapon to weaken any Democratic governors in the battleground state, ruling this week that political appointees don’t have to leave their posts until the Senate confirms their successor. The court’s decision — in the case of a conservative who refused to step down […]
22 hours ago
In this courtroom sketch, R. Kelly briefly addresses Judge Ann Donnelly during his sentencing in fe...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: How will R. Kelly sentence impact other trials?

CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly could be in his 80s before the singer is free again, based on a 30-year prison term imposed this week by a New York federal judge for parlaying his fame to sexually abuse young fans, including some who were children. And if the 55-year-old loses at three related trials in […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A bitcoin symbol is presented on an LED screen during the closing ceremony of a congress for...
Associated Press

El Salvador’s Bitcoin-boosting leader buys $1.5 million more

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — El Salvador’s Bitcoin-boosting president was back at it again Thursday, doubling down on his country’s losing investment in the cryptocurrency by buying over $1.5 million more. President Nayib Bukele wrote on his Twitter acount after posting the purchase: “Bitcoin is the future! Thank you for selling cheap.” Bukele said […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Kansas judge rejects congressional map; appeal promised