WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Feb. 14, a lawsuit was filed in state court challenging Kansas’ new congressional map. The map became law on Feb. 9 after Republicans in the state House and Senate voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto. The map is predicted to divide Kansas into three Republican districts and one highly competitive district that makes the re-election prospects of the state’s lone Democratic representative, Sharice Davids, difficult. The lawsuit, filed in the District Court of Wyandotte County on behalf of Kansas voters and the organization Loud Light, challenges the new congressional map for being a partisan gerrymander that favors Republicans and dilutes minority voting strength in violation 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 and oddly shaped districts” that do not respect political boundaries or communities of interest, including the Kansas City metro area and the state’s four Native American reservations. The plaintiffs point to the fact that 46% of the Black population and 33% of the Hispanic population were moved out of the 3rd Congressional District, currently home to Davids, as evidence that Republicans divided minority communities that have historically voted for Democratic candidates. The lawsuit suggests that the Republican map drawers configured these districts in order to “thwart” the state’s increasing Democratic power and growing minority population, which accounted for all of the state’s population growth over the last decade. The plaintiffs argue that the map’s political lean violates the rights to vote, equal protection, free speech and assembly and its racial vote dilution violates the equal protection guarantee codified in the Kansas Constitution. The lawsuit asks the court to block the enacted map and order the creation of a new plan that complies with state law.