U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, up for re-election in 2022, pressed Wednesday for passage by Congress of election reforms to tamp down temptation of state legislatures to gerrymander congressional district maps. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
TOPEKA — U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids challenged Wednesday the work of politicians motivated by personal and partisan gain to create a gerrymandered map of congressional districts in Kansas that effectively silences the electoral voice of voters in the Kansas City region.
Davids is seeking re-election in the 3rd District anchored by Wyandotte and Johnson counties, but boundaries of all four districts in Kansas could be significantly altered by the Kansas Legislature before voters head to the polls for the August primary and November general elections.
“There are leaders in the Kansas Legislature who have explicitly stated their motivation to gerrymander maps to their party’s political advantage,” she said. “I know people are tired of feeling like billionaires have more of a say than they do in our democracy, tired of having their voices taken away by partisan gerrymandering.”
She said some elected public officials were placing their partisan political goals above the public’s interests, which was “truly insulting to folks that not only want but deserve to have their voices listened to.”
Each state’s congressional map is redrawn every decade to reflect population shifts, and former Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said the 2022 election cycle was an opportunity to advance GOP candidates. Other Kansas Republicans have expressed a desire to shifting the boundaries in Kansas to undermine Davids’ re-election.
The map-making work could get awkward because usurping Davids could increase obstacles to re-election of U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican serving the neighboring 2nd District in eastern Kansas, or influence the campaigns of GOP Congressmen Ron Estes of the mostly urban 4th District and Tracey Mann of the rural 1st District.
On Wednesday, Davids was part of an online news conference with two congressional colleagues and a pair of election reform advocates to encourage the U.S. Senate to approve the Freedom to Vote Act. Major elements of the legislation have been adopted by the U.S. House.
The bill would attempt to bring an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, initiate an overhaul of the federal campaign finance system and create safeguards against subversion of the electoral process.
It would create baseline national standards that supersede more restrictive state voting rules by establishing minimum standards for early and mail voting, modernizing voter registration and restoring the right to vote to formerly incarcerated people. In addition, it would strengthen legal standards for challenging laws that burden voting rights and tackle the problem of dark money in political campaigns.
Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, who serves as chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said federal action on the Freedom to Vote Act was necessary to moderate action by state GOP politicians and federal GOP lawmakers who seek to hold on to “power at all costs.”
“Our democracy is at a crossroads,” Holder said. “We’re on the verge of, I think, a political apartheid system where we have minority rule.”
Tiffany Muller, a former Kansan who is president of End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund, said activities of the Republican Party amounted to a “brazen power grab” driven by those who benefit from a rigged system of gerrymandering and the influence of untraceable campaign contributions.
“It’s designed to eliminate accountability in Washington so that the system serves the corporate special interests and dark money groups rather than the voters,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, a North Carolina Democrat, also urged the U.S. Senate to take up legislation to thwart gerrymandering of congressional districts through adoption of the Freedom to Vote Act.
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