U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Kansas’ congressional map

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on March 27 that it had denied certiorari in Alonzo v. Schwab, a lawsuit regarding Kansas’ congressional district boundaries. The Court did not release the vote results on the matter, and there were no published dissents to the decision. The Supreme Court’s action closes the case, which was the state’s only active redistricting litigation. According to Devan Cole of CNN, “The court’s decision to not hear the case means that the newly redrawn map will remain in play.”

On Nov. 23, 2022, the plaintiffs in Alonzo v. Schwab filed a petition asking SCOTUS to hear the case, which challenged the Kansas Supreme Court’s May 2022 decision upholding the state’s congressional redistricting plan. The petitioners argued that the Kansas Supreme Court erroneously ruled “that intentional racial discrimination in redistricting is unconstitutional only if it prevents the formation of a majority-minority district.”

On June 21, 2022, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned a state district court’s decision finding the state’s congressional district boundaries were unconstitutional. The state supreme court’s order said, “on the record before us, plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their burden to meet the legal elements required for a showing of unlawful racial gerrymandering or unlawful race-based vote dilution.”

On April 25, 2022, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper struck down Kansas’ enacted congressional map. The judge’s ruling stated 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 ruled on a case resulting from the consolidation of three lawsuits challenging congressional district boundaries enacted when the legislature overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto on Feb. 9, 2022. The House of Representatives overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37, with all votes in favor by Republicans, and 36 Democrats and one Republican voting to sustain the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11 strictly along party lines, with all votes in favor by Republicans and all votes opposed by Democrats.

After the legislature overrode Kelly’s veto, Andrew Bahl of the Topeka Capital-Journal 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.”

Davids defeated Amanda Adkins (R) and Steve Hohe (L) in the Nov. 8, 2022, general election for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, receiving 55% of the vote. Davids was first elected to the U.S. House in 2018.

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