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Between the Lines: Seriously, What’s the Matter With Kansas?

Kansas lawmakers are hours away from their deadline without a new Congressional map in sight, virtually assuring a court will take over the process for the first time in history.

The governor must sign a new map into law by today, a scenario that is highly unlikely because legislators turned to budget negotiations Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas redistricting should have been simple. Republicans control the state House, state Senate, governor’s mansion and all four Congressional seats. What’s more, the state is a landlocked rectangle, so there’s no need for creative cartography.

But it will be the last state in the country to finish the decennial redistricting process. It’s unprecedented territory for Kansas, which has never had to go to court over its Congressional map.

Without a map, the state will move back its filing date to June 11. That gives the state Supreme Court two weeks to draw the maps and allows candidates two weeks to file for office.

But without a precedent, it’s unclear whether the state Supreme Court or a federal court will draw the lines. A federal court will decide in the coming days whether to take the case or buck it to the state court.

Republicans prefer to keep the mapmaking in federal court because the state Supreme Court is filled mostly with nominees from the administration of then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D).

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 7.

Florida Democrats Set Sights on Map Change in 2014

Since 2010, when Sunshine State voters overwhelmingly passed a state constitutional amendment known as Fair Districts, Democrats in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee have been banking on the courts to boost their Congressional redistricting fate.

The amendment prohibits mapmakers from crafting lines “with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent,” among other things.

Because the GOP controls the Legislature and the governor’s mansion, Democrats had hoped the amendment would lead to more favorable maps for them in a state where there are only six Democratic House Members in a delegation of 25. Or, barring a better draw, that a court would invalidate Republican maps and create nonpartisan ones.

But that didn’t happen. The stateHouse-drawn map, which Democrats vociferously opposed although it is likely to lead them to net two to four seats, became law. And a state court challenge to the map, spearheaded by the Florida Democratic Party, lost a key ruling on April 30. That ruling, which denied the party’s motion for a summary judgement, meant, in effect, that the Republican-drawn maps will remain in place this cycle.

But Democrats are already looking to change the map for the 2014 cycle as the case continues to wind its way through the judicial system and moves toward a full trial.

“This was really the first step in what was going to be a long, drawn-out process,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux explained. “This plays into Republican strategy: They’ve been trying to play four corners here and run out the clock — and this is an instance where it’s been successful.”

But when the court takes a look at all the facts of the new map, he said he is confident the outcome will be in Democrats’ favor.

“This is a fight that’s worth having,” said Arceneaux, an attorney. “We think this victory can help net us some seats in 2014 if we don’t pick them up this cycle.”

Because of demographic shifts in the state and possible retirements, the next cycle has the potential for significant Sunshine State gains for Democrats, no matter how many seats they pick up in November.

The trial is likely to be held in the fall.

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