Kansas District Court judge overturns that state’s new congressional district boundaries

Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper struck down Kansas’ enacted congressional map on April 25 for violating the state constitution due to political and racial gerrymandering. Klapper’s ruling stated, “The Court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that Ad Astra 2 is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans.” Klapper’s ruling also said that the state’s new district boundaries “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

Klapper issued his decision in a case resulting from the consolidation of three lawsuits challenging Kansas’ congressional map from 20 Kansas voters and the organization Loud Light, which describes itself on its website as a group that “engages, educates, and empowers individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power that has an impact on decision makers.” Klapper heard oral arguments on the consolidated cases earlier this month.

The court’s ruling blocks Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R) and local election officials from using the previously enacted maps for the state’s upcoming elections and directs the legislature to “enact a remedial plan in conformity with this opinion as expeditiously as possible.” Andrew Bahl of the Topeka Capitol Journal wrote that Republican legislative leaders said they would ask Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) to appeal Klapper’s ruling to the state supreme court.

The state Senate and state House enacted the overturned boundaries Feb. 9 when the chambers overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto. In both chambers, all votes to override the governor’s veto were from Republicans and all legislative Democrats that cast votes were to sustain Kelly’s veto. The state Senate originally approved the congressional district map proposal on Jan. 21 and the state House of Representatives approved it on Jan. 26. Kelly vetoed the congressional map on Feb. 3.

After the state legislature overrode Kelly’s veto, Bahl wrote that the “maps were hotly contested, largely for the decision to split Wyandotte County and put part of the Kansas City, Kan., area in the 2nd Congressional District, a move that endangers the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, and, Democrats argue, unfairly divides minority communities.”

Klapper was originally appointed to a judgeship on the 29th Judicial District court in Wyandotte County by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2013. He was elected without opposition in both the Democratic primary and general elections in both 2014 and 2018.

Kansas’ candidate filing deadline is June 1, and statewide, congressional, and local primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2.

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