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GOP KS Redistricting Plan Passes       01/27 06:13

   

   TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Top Republicans pushed their congressional 
redistricting plan through the GOP-dominated Kansas Legislature without much 
trouble Wednesday with an expected court battle looming over whether it would 
go too far in hurting the state's only Democrat in Congress.

   The House's 79-37 vote sends Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly a bill that would 
split the Kansas City area into two congressional districts and move the 
liberal northeast Kansas city of Lawrence into a district with far more 
conservative central and western Kansas communities, some six hours away by 
car. The Senate approved the measure last week.

   Under the new map, Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids would lose some of 
the neighborhoods in her Kansas City-area 3rd District where her support is 
strongest. Redistricting is a big issue for both major parties as Republicans 
seek to regain a U.S. House majority in this year's elections.

   Democrats have strongly criticized the plan as partisan gerrymandering, and 
Kelly has said several times that she wants to keep most of the Kansas City 
area in a single district.

   "It is not a map I would have voted for," Kelly, a former state senator, 
said, without committing to a veto.

   Republican leaders appeared to have the two-thirds majority necessary to 
override a Kelly veto in the Senate. But it's not clear whether they have one 
in the House.

   Almost all GOP lawmakers supported the plan, even western Kansas lawmakers 
from areas that former President Donald Trump carried by more than 80% of the 
vote. The new lines would make Lawrence, home to the main University of Kansas 
campus, the district's largest city.

   "As long as they have done their calculations correct and I don't have to 
deal with having a Democrat represent me in the 1st ever in my lifetime, I 
think we are fine with it," said Dustin Roths, the GOP chairman for Ellis 
County in northwest Kansas.

   Republicans said the new lines stemmed from the need for the state's four 
districts to have as close to the same number of residents as possible. The 
plan has them all at the ideal number of 734,470.

   "The map drawn is fair to all four incumbents, and each of them would have 
won their district with the election totals of 2020," said Rep. Steve Huebert, 
a Wichita-area Republican.

   Still, lawmakers in both parties expect a court battle whether the GOP plan 
becomes law or not. In the past, three federal judges have reviewed the maps 
and in 2012, the judges were forced to draw the lines because a bitter fight 
between moderate and conservative Republicans kept anything from passing.

   In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in a 5-4 ruling that whether a map 
is too unfair to one party is a political issue and not for the federal courts 
to decide. But some Democrats want to get a congressional map before the Kansas 
Supreme Court -- which typically doesn't review them -- for a ruling on whether 
partisan gerrymandering violates the state constitution.

   Northern Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area would be removed from the 
3rd District and put in the neighboring 2nd for northeast Kansas. Wyandotte 
County is among the state's few Democratic strongholds and Davids carried it 
2-to-1 in 2020.

   Critics of the GOP map argue it's unacceptable because it decreases the 
number of Black and Hispanic voters in the 3rd, diluting their voting power. 
Republicans note that the 2nd District would become more diverse, but that 
hasn't assuaged local residents' frustrations after dozens of them told 
lawmakers in hearings that the Kansas City area should not be carved up.

   "They were gaslighting Wyandotte County residents into thinking that they 
cared what they thought and wasted people's time to come out and speak their 
truth," said Dustin Hare, founder of a local group that aids the poor and 
homeless.

   The change for Lawrence, which separates it from the rest of its home 
county, has also been widely criticized by local residents and officials.

   For even some of the map's backers, the change seemed to come out of 
nowhere. But Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, said it 
was partly a response to Wyandotte County residents saying they didn't want to 
go into the 1st District with western Kansas. Some GOP lawmakers pushed that 
idea in 2012 when the 1st District also had to pick up new residents.

   "It was abundantly clear they did not want to be in the 1st, so I wanted to 
honor that," said Masterson, one of the map's architects.

 
 
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