State of Kansas

Kansas Congressional Redistricting Challenge (Rivera)

Rivera v. Schwab

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Kansas voters and the organization Loud Light against Kansas’ new congressional map. The plaintiffs argue that the new map, which was enacted after Republicans overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto, is a partisan gerrymander that favors Republicans and dilutes minority voting strength in violation of multiple provisions of the Kansas Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue that the Republican map drawers explicitly set out to gerrymander the state in their favor by splitting up Wyandotte and Douglas Counties, the state’s two Democratic strongholds and heavily minority counties, and “submerging” their populations into heavily white and Republican districts. The resulting map allegedly contains non-compact districts that do not respect political boundaries or communities of interest. The case was consolidated with Alonzo v. Schwab and Frick v. Schwab.

After a trial was held in early April, the trial court judge struck down the congressional map for being a partisan gerrymander that benefits Republicans and dilutes the voting strength of voters of color in violation of the state constitution. The state appealed this ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court. After an oral argument was held on May 16 (which can be viewed here), the state Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and reinstated the Republican-drawn map. In its opinion, a majority of the court found that the partisan gerrymandering claim is a nonjusticiable political question (meaning it’s unsuitable for Kansas courts to rule on) because the Kansas Constitution does not contain an explicit ban on using partisanship when drawing lines. Because there are no set standards for evaluating partisan gerrymandering in Kansas, the court held that it cannot decide such claims “at least until such a time as the Legislature or the people of Kansas choose to codify such a standard into law.” The majority also found that the plaintiffs’ race-based claims did not have any solid footing because they failed to prove that the “minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single member district.”

Case Documents (trial court)

Case Documents (ks supreme court)

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