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Legal battle expected over Kansas congressional redistricting

Impacted voters react to redrawn districts
Lawrence, Kansas
Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 19:15:07-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — A legal battle is expected after Kansas lawmakers approved a new congressional map some groups argue dilutes minority and Democratic votes.

Under the new map, Wyandotte County is divided along Interstate 70. The northern portion of the district is moved into the second congressional district and the remaining part of the county is included with Johnson, Franklin, Miami and Anderson Counties.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is added to the first congressional district while the rest of Douglas County remains in the second congressional district.

In Lawrence, some voters in the typically liberal college town weren't happy with the move.

“I think it’s totally illegal. I mean we’re voting with Goodland, that’s just ridiculous. I mean, our vote ain’t even going to count," Allen, a voter who didn't want his last name published, said.

Other voters agreed.

"I just don't think it's very fair for those of us here that aren't going to be heard as much as we were in the past," voter Kevin Lawrence said.

Legal challenges are expected to the congressional map.

Mark Johnson is a lawyer and law professor at the University of Kansas. He explained each side has arguments that could be made in court.

“Probably a good argument is we had to change something and we knew whatever we did wasn’t going to satisfy everybody. It’s not going to be perfect, but we think we did a job that was good enough," Johnson said in regard to the argument supporters of the map could make.

Johnson said the argument from opponents of the map would focus on dividing certain counties.

"'You split us in two and you’re making it more difficult for us as African Americans or Hispanics to elect the representative we want to elect,' I don’t think there’s a question that’s the case," Johnson said. "The question is, is the change large enough, big enough that a court going to say that's too much.”

What decisions will come from lawsuits challenging the map are not known. However, Johnson said the timeline for when legal matters have to be settled is.

"Everything will be finished by early June because there's a federal law that requires that the ballots for Kansans who live overseas and who are in the military have to go out at least 45 days before the primary and the primary takes place on the first Tuesday in August," Johnson said. "So everything's got to be finished by early to middle June."