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The Kansas Supreme Court has weighed in on the constitutionality of a newly redrawn congressional map by the Republican-controlled legislature.
According to the state’s high court in a Wednesday ruling, a new redistricting law is legal and will make it more difficult for the only Kansas congressional delegate to win reelection, POLITICO reported, with the outlet going on to label the new congressional map a product of “overly partisan gerrymandering.”
The outlet continued:
The court’s opinion was two paragraphs long, saying only that the voters and voting rights group challenging the map “have not prevailed on their claims” that the map violated the state constitution and that a full opinion would come later.
The brief decision was written by Justice Caleb Stegall, who is seen as the most conservative of the court’s seven justices, five of whom were appointed by Democratic governors. During arguments from attorneys on Monday, he questioned whether anyone could clearly define improper partisan gerrymandering.
The report noted that lawsuits over newly redrawn congressional districts have flooded courtrooms all over the United States as Republicans seek to recapture the House majority this year as well as the evenly-divided Senate. Maps in at least 17 states have led to lawsuits, the Brennan Center for Justice noted.
Inside Elections reporter Jacob Rubaskin noted in a tweet the situation in Kansas was another blow for Dems: “The redistricting hits keep on coming for Democrats. The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the congressional map drawn by the GOP-controlled legislature that makes Sharice Davids’ 3rd District more difficult for her. A lower court had struck down the map.”
The redistricting hits keep on coming for Democrats. The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the congressional map drawn by the GOP-controlled legislature that makes Sharice Davids’ 3rd District more difficult for her. A lower court had struck down the map.https://t.co/9Mt0NjazHD
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) May 18, 2022
“In the past, congressional district lines have been reviewed by federal judges and not the state Supreme Court. The conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in 2019 that complaints about partisan gerrymandering are political issues and not for the federal courts to resolve,” POLITICO noted.
The GOP-appointed Kansas solicitor general argued in defense of the Republican-drawn map that because the state’s constitution doe snot specifically mention ‘gerrymandering’ or even congressional redistricting, the Kansas Supreme Court ought to reject any legal challenges regarding those issues.
The lawsuits, however, argued that the state’s bill of rights tacitly prohibits partisan gerrymandering, noting that “free governments” are formed and intended to provide the people with “equal protection and benefits” and that residents have “equal and inalienable rights” that include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In addition, the SG and other state officials said that justices do not have any guidance regarding how to recognize and define what constitutes improperly politicized gerrymandering.
“It’s elected legislators who are best positioned to determine how to balance out the competing interests,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, told reporters after the state Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this week.
State Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Kansas City-area Democrat, said Republicans had “disrespected, ignored and gaslit engaged voters from the very start.”
Also, House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, claimed: “The decision regarding Congressional maps opens a Pandora’s box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future.”
All said, however, state courts have issued rulings that favor Democrats in largely red states including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all legislatures where Republicans hold majorities. In New York, however, the state’s Supreme Court recently ruled that new districts there were gerrymandered to favor Democrats.
Regarding the Kansas map, POLITICO noted: “Republican legislative leaders argued that based on 2020 election results, Davids still could win her new district. They said their map was a fair way to rebalance the population in each of the state’s congressional districts to make them as equal as possible after 10 years of demographic shifts.”