By JOHN HANNA and ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats, a civil rights group, and a national elections watchdog filed two lawsuits Monday against Kansas officials over a Republican redistricting law that costs the state's only Democrat in Congress some of the territories in her Kansas City-area district that she carries by wide margins in elections. Kansas is part of a broader national battle over redrawing congressional districts. Republicans hope to recapture a U.S. House majority in this year's elections, and both parties are watching states' redistricting efforts because they could help either pick up or defend individual seats.
Both lawsuits were filed in Wyandotte County District Court in the Kansas City area on behalf of aggrieved voters. Both sue Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican and top elections official.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, this year's presumed GOP nominee for governor, promised a vigorous defense of the new law.
"The plaintiffs are hoping state courts, which in the past have not reviewed federal congressional districts, will write new rules to their advantage," Schmidt spokesperson John Milburn said in an email.
For decades, lawsuits over congressional redistricting in Kansas have been filed and resolved in federal court.
The Kansas Constitution doesn't say whether the state courts can review congressional maps.
In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that complaints of partisan gerrymandering are political issues and not for federal courts to resolve. The Kansas lawsuits ask state courts to declare that Republicans' map represents racial and partisan gerrymandering that violates the state constitution's guarantee of voting rights, equal rights for all residents, and freedom of speech and assembly." "The dominant party manipulates the district boundaries to dilute the voting power of the minority party's voters," said one lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center.
The Kansas redistricting law removes the northern part of Kansas City, Kansas, from the 3rd District that U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids represents and puts it in the neighboring 2nd District, which includes the state capital of Topeka and rural communities across eastern Kansas. Kansas City is among Republican-leaning Kansas" few Democratic strongholds.
The law also moved Lawrence's liberal northeast Kansas city — another Democratic stronghold and home to the main University of Kansas campus — out of the 2nd District. The city of 95,000 is now in the already sprawling 1st District of central and western Kansas with small conservative communities, some six hours away by car.