Two Lawsuits Announced To Thwart Gerrymandering Targeting Minorities

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Two lawsuits have been filed against a new Congressional district map in the state of Kansas that substantially lowers the populations of Black and Hispanic voters who are within the Third Congressional District, which is currently represented by Rep. Sharice Davids — Kansas’s only current Democratic representative in Congress. Besides the implications for Democratic chances in elections of moving so many of Davids’s voters out of her district, these communities had previously been largely well-represented by the boundaries of the district — but now, they’re further spread across district lines, threatening the ability of marginalized groups to make their voices heard.

The new lawsuits include a case from the ACLU of Kansas and the Campaign Legal Center along with another case from the groups Democracy Docket and Loud Light. Before this new map was set into motion, Wyandotte County — the most racially and ethnically diverse county in the state of Kansas — had been entirely within the boundaries of Davids’s district, but now, part of it has been added onto one of the state’s Republican-leaning districts. Wyandotte County had been entirely within a single district for four decades. In addition, the new map inserts the Democratic-leaning town of Lawrence into the Republican-leaning First Congressional District — a set-up that’s never been in place before but further threatens the ability of these voters to be heard.

As Sharon Brett, who serves as legal director for the ACLU of Kansas, explained things, the “people in the Kansas City metropolitan area have a real need and desire to elect representatives that are going to represent their interests in Congress.” Brett added that “what this map does is basically run roughshod over those interests and over those desires and does so for political gain… we cannot be in the business of playing partisan games with constitutional rights.” The map had been vetoed by Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, but Republicans mustered enough votes in the state legislature to override that veto. It seems difficult to imagine that reasons for concerns about the map could be any more obvious — back in late 2020, then-Kansas state Senate President Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican, offered a “guarantee” that a map with four Republican-leaning House districts (imperiling Davids, who was first elected in 2018) could, in fact, be drawn.

As the ACLU lawsuit put it, “Although it remains unclear who actually drafted the Enacted Plan, the intent of state Republican party leaders was made clear in 2020, when then-Senate President Susan Wagle openly urged Republican legislators to pass a map ‘that takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd,’ and boasted, ‘I guarantee you we can draw four Republican congressional maps.'” The brazenness is astounding! Although not all post-census redistricting processes have been completed, challenges have also been launched in states including Texas, where state Republican officials gave two new U.S. House districts to white majorities, although population growth from mostly non-white residents is why Texas got those districts at all.

It’s worth noting that no matter the seriousness of concerns about protecting the rights of voters like those in Davids’s district, a redistricting tracker from POLITICO suggests that Democrats are rhetorically staying at least somewhat above water: across new maps that have been adopted, the tracker as of a recent point identified 162 “strong Biden” districts and 121 “strong Trump” districts, with 44 “competitive” ones. That’s seven newly strongly Democratic districts since 2020, alongside 13 newly strongly Republican ones. As of early this week, a full 108 districts were left with which to deal, per the redistricting tracker from POLITICO.