Kansas Governor Thwarts Blatant GOP Gerrymandering Attempt


Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a Congressional redistricting plan that was passed by Republicans in the state legislature and would have made it significantly more difficult for Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), the only Democratic member of Kansas’s current Congressional delegation, to win re-election. As explained by Kelly herself, the Congressional district map that Republican state legislators approved “shifts 46% of the Black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the third congressional district” by splitting off specific areas from the rest of the district. That district — which Davids represents — would have “counties that are more rural to the south and west of the core of the Kansas City metropolitan area” added to it if the map was enacted, according to the governor’s explanation.

Kelly also commented as follows:

‘The process of drawing districts each decade is the core to ensuring that all Kansans have the opportunity to participate in their government and have their voices heard. The courts and the Legislature have established case law and criteria on how to draw Kansas districts fairly and constitutionally… [The Republican state legislators’ Congressional redistricting plan] does not follow these guidelines and provides no justification for deviation from those guidelines.’

As she explained, the “guidelines” for the redistricting process include “ensuring that plans have neither the purpose nor effect of diluting minority communities’ voting strength,” something that Republicans who approved these maps apparently failed to accomplish in essentially signing off on a plan that would have spread Black and Hispanic communities across Congressional districts, making it more difficult for these groups to exercise a unified voice in the selection of representatives. As for the path ahead, Kelly added that she is “ready to work with the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion to pass a new congressional map that addresses the constitutional issues” in the previous plan. Republicans have large enough majorities in the state legislature that they could feasibly override Kelly’s veto — if there aren’t defectors to the point of making obtaining a super-majority in support of the plan impossible. Litigation could be reasonably expected to swiftly follow if the map is enacted over Kelly’s objections.

Elsewhere in the country, democracy advocates are continuing the fight against Republican gerrymandering, meaning the manipulation of the redistricting process for political ends. Recently, Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a Congressional redistricting plan that had been approved by Republicans in the state legislature, saying that it would “unnecessarily create noncompetitive districts unresponsive to Pennsylvania political trends and prevailing voter preference.” Now, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court will be deciding on a new Congressional district map for the state, with Justices having concluded that both “the impasse between the legislative and executive branches” and imminent primary elections warranted their swift intervention. The court, which has a Democratic majority, has scheduled a hearing for February 18 apparently dealing with arguments related to which set-up for the Congressional map that it should go with — so it’s moving quickly.