OVERLAND PARK, KS — The ACLU of Kansas and the Campaign Legal Center, along with pro bono assistance from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, filed suit in Wyandotte County District Court Monday, seeking to block the recently enacted congressional redistricting map, claiming it is a partisan and racial gerrymander.
The suit, Alonzo et al. v. Schwab, against Kansas Sec. of State Scott Schwab and Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Abbott, was filed on behalf of 10 plaintiffs who live in Johnson or Wyandotte counties and an additional plaintiff who lives in Lawrence.
It argues that the new map cracks the most racially diverse county in Kansas in half in an attempt to dilute the voices of minority voters. The lawsuit argues that the congressional map constitutes partisan and racial gerrymandering, violating the Equal Rights and Political Power Clauses, Free Speech and Free Assembly Clauses, and the Right to Suffrage provisions of the Kansas Constitution.
“This map is the product of a rushed legislative process that ignored the expressed concerns of hundreds of Kansans who spoke out at town halls and during hearings,” said Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas. “It is a brazen attempt to drown the political voices of Black, urban voters in a sea of white, rural voters for partisan gains.”
Brett said the maps not only would cause irreparable harm to minority voters, but the rushed, irregular process raised questions regarding the map’s partisan and discriminatory aims.
“Kansas deserves a fair and neutral map that takes community input into account,” said Mark Gaber, senior director of redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center. “The legislature must return to the drawing board ahead of the 2022 election, so Kansans can feel confident that their vote counts.”
The Kansas Legislature passed the map, dubbed “Ad Astra 2,” on Feb. 9 in a process that took less than two weeks, that ignored public input, and that required an override of Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto.
The Ad Astra 2 map slices the Kansas City, Kansas metropolitan area into two different congressional districts. Under the new map, the heavily minority communities in Wyandotte north of the Kansas River would be removed from District 3 and placed in District 2, resulting in significant dilution of the minority voting strength of those voters. The remaining District 3 voters likewise would have their votes diluted, as southern Wyandotte and the metro-Kansas City communities in Johnson County would combine with rural, white counties to the south and west.
The map also removes Lawrence from District 2, separating it from the rest of Douglas County, and placing it into District 1 — a vast, predominately rural district that hugs the border of Colorado and has little in common with the heavily Democratic county seat. The lawsuit argues that this move was a partisan one, meant to offset the Wyandotte County Democratic voters moved into District 2.
The lawsuit asks the court to grant declaratory and injunctive relief, and force the Kansas Legislature to return to the drawing board to produce a fair, equitable map.
# # #
About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.