The highest court in Kansas has upheld the state legislature’s controversial congressional map.
Today’s decision overturns the findings of a Wyandotte County judge who ruled on April 25 that the Republican-passed map diluted the voting power of Democrats and minorities.
Before redistricting, Kansas had three solidly Republican and one highly competitive congressional district, the 3rd, currently represented by Democrat Sharice Davids.
Davids’ victory over then-Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder in 2018 showed that the suburban Kansas City seat was trending Democratic, at least in the short term.
To deal with this ideological shift, Republicans in Topeka redrew the state’s four congressional districts with a laser focus on making Davids’ seat more Republican. (RELATED: DeSantis Pushes Through Redistricting Map That’ll Bring Big GOP Gains)
Ultimately, the GOP-dominated legislature accomplished this by splitting heavily Democratic and ethnically diverse Wyandotte County along I-70. Under the old district boundaries, Davids’ seat had a partisan lean of D+4. Her new seat has shifted significantly rightward to R+3.
Almost immediately, Democrats challenged the map’s validity, claiming it violated the Kansas Consitution. (RELATED: Justice Department Sues Texas Over Redistricting)
After a weeks-long legal fight, Justice Caleb Stegall wrote a preliminary two-paragraph majority opinion explaining why the plaintiffs didn’t prove their case.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports:
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.
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.
The map also moved the liberal northeastern Kansas city of Lawrence — a Democratic stronghold that is home to the main University of Kansas campus and is only about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Kansas City — out of the 2nd District. Instead, the city of 95,000 has been added to the already sprawling 1st District, which is dominated by small conservative communities in central and western Kansas.
The lower court’s ruling relied heavily on the testimony of a University of Michigan political scientist who used a computer algorithm to produce 1,000 alternative redistricting plans to conclude that the new districts “are extreme pro-Republican partisan outliers.”
Today’s decision clears the way for the map to be used in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.