Kansan voters filed a lawsuit in state court challenging Kansas’ 2022 congressional redistricting plan as a partisan and racial gerrymander that violates the Kansas Constitution. The lawsuit alleges that Kansas violated its own constitution when it enacted a congressional plan that threatens to eliminate the state’s only Democratic congressional seat and its only congressional district in which minority voters can, together with white crossover voters, elect their candidate of choice to Congress.
The state of Kansas has four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Tracey Mann, Republican Jacob LaTurner, Republican Ron Estes and Democrat Sharice Davids. This partisan breakdown in Kansas’ congressional delegation — 75% Republican, 25% Democratic — roughly aligns with the state’s political makeup and, if anything, underrepresents Democratic voters. In 2020, Democrats earned over 40% of statewide votes in the presidential, Senate and congressional elections. Kansas also has a Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, who was elected with 48% of the vote, and with a five-point margin, in 2018.
Nevertheless, at the outset of the 2022 redistricting cycle, Kansas Republicans announced their plan to gerrymander the state’s congressional map to eliminate Davids’ seat. Indeed, then Senate President Susan Wagle promised, “I guarantee you we can draw four Republican congressional maps.” The state made good on this promise during the redistricting process, passing a map that shores up Republican control of the three existing Republican seats and turns Davids’ district, which she has reliably won by 10 points, into a Republican-leaning seat.
To target Davids’ seat, Kansas Republicans divided the Kansas City metro area into two congressional districts, cracking the power of the area’s Democratic voting bloc in an effort to dilute their voting strength. This splits a widely recognized community of interest into separate congressional districts for the first time in 40 years — a result federal courts have forbidden for the last four decades. It also rejects the will of Kansas voters, whose testimony to the Senate and House Committees on Redistricting overwhelmingly supported preserving Kansas City in a single congressional district.
Not only is the map drawn for partisan gain, it also dilutes the voting strength of minority voters, preventing them from electing their preferred candidate, currently Sharice Davids, a Native American woman. The map splits Wyandotte County — the state’s only majority-minority county — in two, cracking a congressional district in which minority voters, with white crossover voters, can currently elect their candidate of choice, and instead dividing them into two districts in which there are too few white crossover voters to elect the minority-preferred candidate.
The Kansas legislature passed this partisan and racially gerrymandered map through an expedited and opaque process. The House approved the map two weeks after its first committee meeting on redistricting; the Senate passed it even more quickly. The hearings also took place without opportunity for meaningful public input, requiring the public to submit comments without access to the data underlying the map. The map initially passed the legislature in late January, and Gov. Kelly vetoed it a week later. The Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate overrode Gov. Kelly’s veto the following week. Not a single Democrat in either chamber voted in favor of the map, and some Republican legislators defected as well.
On Feb. 14, 2022, 11 Kansas voters, represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas and Arnold & Porter, sued, asking a Kansas court in Wyandotte County to invalidate the map as a partisan and racial gerrymander that violates the protections of the Kansas Constitution. Kansas voters of all parties and races deserve an equal opportunity to translate their votes into political representation — and the Kansas Constitution requires it.