Legal Move Announced To Fight GOP Gerrymandering Targeting Minorities

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the leader of an organization called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, has pledged imminent litigation over a gerrymandered Congressional map in the state of Kansas. As previously explained by Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, 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 is served in D.C. by Rep. Sharice Davids, Kansas’s only current Democratic representative in Congress — has “counties that are more rural to the south and west of the core of the Kansas City metropolitan area” added to it under the map, according to the governor’s explanation.

Kelly vetoed the Congressional redistricting plans in question, but supporters of the new map possessed a large enough backing in the state legislature to override her veto. Holder told reporters that “Republicans diluted voices of the most populous and diverse region of the state for partisan gain,” and he apparently indicated that a lawsuit from his group over the map would be coming in the state court system, as opposed to the federal judiciary. At present, the Kansas state Supreme Court features a majority of Justices who were appointed by Democratic governors, suggesting that the court could be more favorable to the cause of tamping down on GOP gerrymandering. As explained by The Kansas City Star, the new Congressional map also “divides Wyandotte County, the most racially and ethnically diverse county in the state, for the first time in 40 years.” Splitting up affected voters across districts could make it more difficult for them to see through the election of representatives directly reflective of their interests.

Attorney Marc Elias, who’s been prominent in the fight against GOP voter suppression, also promised litigation over the Kansas map. Kansas state House Speaker Rep. Ron Ryckman (R) insisted that “based on what’s happened across the United States these types of maps are going to be upheld,” self-confidently adding: “A lot of attorneys will make money trying but I’m pretty confident that it gets upheld.” In reality, recent developments regarding redistricting are significantly more nuanced than that assessment would suggest. Although the Alabama decision was put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court, courts struck down GOP-backed district maps in both Alabama and Ohio and demanded that they be redrawn.

As previously reported on this site, Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf also recently 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. Voting rights proposals at the federal level that were recently defeated in the Senate included initiatives to address the political manipulation of legislative district maps — but Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) decided that protecting outdated filibuster rules was more important than moving forward with those efforts, apparently.