Thomas Alonzo says during a Jan. 24, 2022, news conference at the Kansas Statehouse that the congressional map endorsed by GOP leaders "demonstrates a lack of competent, moral and ethical leadership." (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Two lawsuits were filed today arguing the congressional map endorsed by the Republican Supermajority in the Kansas Legislature intentionally violates constitutional rights of Democrats and communities of color. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly had vetoed the maps but last week the Kansas House and Senate with a two-thirds majority were able to overrule her veto.

The legal challenges were widely anticipated.

The maps passed by the Republicans divides the Kansas City metro area in an obvious attempt to make it harder for the state’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Sharice Davids, to hang onto her 3rd District seat. The map places the area of Wyandotte County north of Interstate 70, a majority minority community, into the 2nd District. The infusion of Democratic votes into the 2nd District is offset by carving Lawrence ( a heavily Democratic district, out of Douglas County and placing it in the heavily Republican 1st District, which stretches to the Colorado border.

In her veto of the map on Feb. 3, Kelly said it would move 46% of the 3rd District’s Black population and 33% of its Latino population into the 2nd District.

The map that was passed shows that the Legislature was intentionally trying to silence our collective voice,” said Tom Alonzo, a Kansas City resident who lives north of I-70 in Wyandotte County. “There is nothing just or democratic about it. My community is the most diverse in Kansas — and they want to dilute us so we have no voice.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Wyandotte County District Court on behalf of seven Wyandotte County residents, including Alonzo, three Johnson County residents and one Lawrence resident. Four of the plaintiffs are Black, five are white and two are Latino. The suit names two defendants: Scott Schwab, who, as Kansas secretary of state, is the state’s chief election officer; and Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Michael Abbott.

The Campaign Legal Center is working with the ACLU on the lawsuit, along with pro bono assistance from the Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer law firm. Kansas-based nonprofit Loud Light, with support from national voting rights attorney Marc Elias’ Democracy Docket, also filed a lawsuit in Wyandotte County.

The lawsuits ask the court to declare the map passed by the legislature invalid, set a deadline for lawmakers to pass an acceptable map, draw a map in place of lawmakers if they fail to meet the deadline, and make the state pay for attorney fees and court costs. Both lawsuits name Wyandotte County election officer Michael Abbott and Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab as defendants.

State lawmakers are tasked with drawing new maps for congressional and legislative districts every 10 years, based on census results. In 2012, the Legislature was unable to agree on a map and the current districts were drawn by a panel of federal judges.

Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said the map “essentially says that, based on race and based on party, some people should count less, that they should be excluded from the process, that they should have their voice diminished and devalued.”

Kansas neither gained nor lost seats — it has four — in the most recent round of reapportionment based on the 2020 U.S. Census. Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita area Republican, justified the redistricting by saying that most of the state’s population growth occurred in the Kansas City area, making it impossible to keep all of Wyandotte and Johnson counties together.

Kansas’ congressional delegation consists of three Republicans and one Democrat, Davids, roughly in line with the state’s political makeup, as the lawsuit notes. 

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