Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Vetoes Proposed Redistricting Plan, Calls for ‘Fair and Constitutional’ New One

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Vetoes Proposed Redistricting Plan, Calls for ‘Fair and Constitutional’ New One
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions in her office at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., on March 25, 2020. (John Hanna/AP)

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday vetoed a proposed redistricting map that was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, calling instead for one that redistricts Kansas districts “fairly and constitutionally.”

The redistricting map, which would have split Wyandotte County between two Congressional districts for the first time since 1982, comes as Republicans hope to regain a U.S. House majority in this year’s mid-term elections.

In a lengthy statement, Kelly said the proposed map, also known as Senate Bill 355, does not follow guidelines established by the Kansas legislature and courts and “provides no justification for deviation from those guidelines.”

She also noted that the GOP map carves Wyandotte County, the most diverse county in Kansas and a Democrat stronghold, into two separate congressional districts.

The map, “without explanation” shifts 46 percent of the black population and 33 percent of the Hispanic population out of the third congressional district, Kelly said.

It does this by dividing the Hispanic neighborhoods of Quindaro Bluffs, Bethel-Welborn, Strawberry Hill, Armourdale, and others from Argentine, Turner, and the rest of Kansas City, Kansas south of I-70, Kelly said.

The governor said that the map, in order to replace lost population in the third district, also adds in counties that are “more rural to the south and west of the core of the Kansas City metropolitan area.”

“The process of drawing districts each decade is the core to ensuring that all Kansans have the opportunity to participate in their government and have their voices heard,” Kelly said. “The courts and the Legislature have established case law and criteria on how to draw Kansas districts fairly and constitutionally.”

Kelly went on to state that the map passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature would also move the liberal northeast Kansas community of Lawrence from Douglas County and that it “inserts urban precincts of Lawrence into the largely rural Big First Congressional District” which in return reduces the strength of communities of interest in the western point and “unnecessarily dividing communities of interest in Eastern Kansas.”

The map would also make it harder for Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, to get reelected, as it would give a substantial number of her current constituents in the third district to neighboring Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner, although Republicans argued that Davids still can win reelection.

Essentially, Kelly argued that the map would provide Republicans a substantially better chance to win all four of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kelly said that several alternatives would allow for the same deviation as Senate Bill 355 while still “protecting the core of the existing congressional districts and without diluting minority communities’ voting strength.”

In her statement, the Kansas governor said she is ready to work with the legislature to pass a new congressional map that addresses the constitutional issues that she has raised, adding that she believes they can work together to pass a map that “empowers all people of Kansas.”

However, Republicans quickly responded by saying that they would attempt to override the veto, although if they were to do so, the move would likely be challenged in federal court

“This isn’t the first time the legislature has had to step up to protect Kansans from Laura Kelly’s partisan agenda. It is no coincidence she pulled out the veto pen just hours after the ACLU told her to. It’s clear she is beholden to New York special interests,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch said.

“The legislature is bound to do what is best for Kansas and we won’t back down from that responsibility,” they added.

From The Epoch Times