Between the Lines: Kansas House Poised to Pass Map This Week

Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:08pm

After months of inaction, Sunflower State lawmakers will take the first major step to pass a new Congressional map this week.

The proposal — named “Bob Dole 1” — aims to make three of the state’s four Republican Members safer, especially freshman Rep. Kevin Yoder, by splitting parts of Topeka.

Kansas is one of just two states still without a new Congressional map following the decennial census. And even though a serious proposal is making its way through the Legislature, a Kansas source warned that a final House map could still be weeks away from enactment.

Under any new map, the suburban 3rd district around Kansas City must shed 58,000 in population, and the rural, western 1st district must gain that same number of people.

The new map would move population into Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s 1st district by picking up parts of Topeka. In exchange, two-term Rep. Lynn Jenkins, the dean of the House delegation, would pick up Democratic strongholds in Douglas County from Yoder’s district.

Republicans are particularly wary about Yoder’s district because it has been competitive in past cycles. Former Rep. Dennis Moore (D) held the seat for six terms before Yoder came to Congress last year.

The state House will probably pass “Bob Dole 1” this week before leaving for its scheduled three-week recess, a well-placed source said. The Kansas Senate could either pass the map this week or wait until lawmakers return in late April to send the proposal to the governor’s desk.

Florida: Democrats Ask Court to Trash New House Map

The Florida Democratic Party filed a motion in state court Monday asking a judge to declare the Sunshine State’s Republican-drawn Congressional map unconstitutional.

Democrats asked a Tallahassee circuit court to throw out the map — which would cement a significant GOP advantage in the federal delegation for the next decade — and prohibit elections from being held using the new lines.

The FDP also offered its own map, which it said meets constitutional muster but which few in Florida believe would be adopted by the court.

A 2010 voter-enacted constitutional amendment prohibits, among other things, crafting Congressional lines with “the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” That amendment is the crux of the Democrats’ case. In the court filing, a large part of the party’s legal rationale rests on a recent state Supreme Court decision throwing out state Senate maps for violating a similar amendment.

In the filing, Democrats specifically cite House districts 5, 10, 13 and 14 as in violation of the constitutional requirements. Those are districts that, under the current map, are likely to be won, respectively, by Reps. Corrine Brown (D), Daniel Webster (R), Bill Young (R) and Kathy Castor (D).

An expected point of contention is that the black voting-age population in Brown’s district goes down substantially under the Democratic plan. In the new Republican-crafted map passed into law this year, half of the voting-age population in that district is black. In the map Democrats proposed to the court, Brown’s district would have a black voting-age population of 38 percent. The Voting Rights Act prohibits diluting protected minority groups’ electoral power. Democrats will make the argument that it remains a district where black voters have “the ability to elect their candidates of choice,” according to the filing.

“Racially polarized voting does not exist to the extent it once did,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux told Roll Call, ticking through a list of examples.

Republicans pushed back.

“There’s rich irony in the fact that Democrats are more than willing to create maps that eliminate minority representation and disenfranchise communities that have long struggled to be represented in Congress and other political bodies,” said Brian Hughes, communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

“Republicans have zero credibility here and are the ones rich with hypocrisy,” FDP Communications Director Brannon Jordan replied in a statement. “It is Democrats who are standing up for the people of Florida who have demanded — in overwhelming numbers — that the GOP end decades of partisan gerrymandering.”

Whatever the circuit court decides, an appeal to the state Supreme Court is certain. A final decision from the Sunshine State high court is expected by May, a month before the June filing deadline.