Kansas Supreme Court upholds state congressional map

Ruling means a tougher road to reelection for Rep. Sharice Davids, the state’s lone Democrat in Congress

Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., speaks at the event in the Capitol in 2020.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., speaks at the event in the Capitol in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 18, 2022 at 4:43pm

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the state’s congressional map in a ruling Wednesday, reversing a lower court opinion that found the map unfairly favored Republicans and harmed minority voters.

The map, which splits Democrat-leaning Wyandotte County, means a tougher road to reelection for Rep. Sharice Davids, the state’s lone Democrat in Congress.

The two-page opinion from Justice Caleb Stegall reversed the lower court ruling against the map and promised a more substantial ruling later.

“A majority of the court holds that, on the record before us, plaintiffs have not prevailed on their claims that [the congressional map legislation] violates the Kansas Constitution,” the opinion said.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Davids said the redistricting process “did not instill a sense of transparency or confidence in the people of Kansas.”

Davids said she still planned to run in the new version of her district “and continuing my work to find common ground and tackle the everyday issues facing our community, and showing all Kansans that to me, their voice matters.”

Wednesday’s opinion reverses an April decision from Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper that found the map violated state constitutional protections for minority voting rights and against partisan gerrymandering.

The state’s House delegation currently has three Republicans and Davids, who won reelection in 2020 with 53 percent of the vote in her seat based in Kansas City.

Under the new map, based on the results of the 2020 census, Davids’ seat loses the northern part of Kansas City and picked up several counties to the southwest, making it more Republican-leaning.

With control of the House of Representatives hanging on just five seats, experts expect that redistricting will have an outsize effect on which party controls the House next year.

The Kansas Supreme Court is the first this cycle to rule in favor of a state-controlled mapdrawing process on partisan gerrymandering grounds. State Supreme Courts in New York, North Carolina and Ohio have all ruled against the state’s congressional maps on partisan gerrymandering grounds.

A Maryland trial judge ruled against the state’s congressional map, but Democrats in the state adopted a compromise map rather than continue the case.

In 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could not hear political gerrymandering claims, leaving the issue up to state courts.