KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 355, the congressional redistricting map known as "Ad Astra 2" that would have divided Wyandotte County along Interstate 70.
In a statement released Thursday, Kelly said that the drawing of districts is "core to ensuring that all Kansans have the opportunity to participate in their government and have their voices heard."
Some residents of Wyandotte County were concerned that the proposed map would have split the 3rd Congressional District that is currently represented by Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat. The northern part of the county would have been included in the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Republican Jake LaTurner, and the southern part of the county would be included in a district with Johnson, Franklin, Miami and Anderson Counties.
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Officials with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said they were concerned about the "Ad Astra 2" map because it would dilute the voices of minority communities.
Kelly mentioned in her statement that the Kansas Legislature has to follow guidelines when drawing districts, and "communities of interest should be considered" like economic, social, cultural or larger socioeconomic units.
The courts and the Legislature have established case law and criteria on how to draw Kansas districts fairly and constitutionally.
“Senate Bill 355, known as Ad Astra 2, does not follow these guidelines and provides no justification for deviation from those guidelines," Kelly said. "Wyandotte County is carved into two separate congressional districts. Without explanation, this map shifts 46% of the Black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the third congressional district 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. To replace lost population in the third district, this map adds in counties that are more rural to the south and west of the core of the Kansas City metropolitan area."
Kelly also mentions how the proposed map would separate the city of Lawrence from Douglas County and add Lawrence into the mainly rural 1st Congressional District.
She said this move would reduce "the strength of communities of interest in Western Kansas and unnecessarily dividing communities of interest in Eastern Kansas."
“Several alternatives would allow for the same deviation as Ad Astra 2 while protecting the core of the existing congressional districts and without diluting minority communities’ voting strength," Kelly said. "I am ready to work with the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion to pass a new congressional map that addresses the constitutional issues in Senate Bill 355. Together, we can come to a consensus and pass a compromise that empowers all people of Kansas."
Kansas lawmakers will try to override Kelly's veto, but "Ad Astra 2" could still face court challenges in the future.
Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch released the following statement saying Kelly had caved to special interests and planned to push forward.
"The legislature is bound to do what is best for Kansans and we won’t back down from that responsibility," the Republican leaders said.
However, not all legislators agree on what is best for Kansans. A campaign spokesperson for Rep. Sharice Davids shared a statement about her support of the veto and a "fair redistricting process."
“Rep. Davids is focused on her work in Congress to lower costs for Kansas families and represent the people of the Third District, and she supports a fair redistricting process in which all Kansans have their voices heard and heeded,” Davids' spokesperson said.