Republican-backed redistricting map heads to Kansas governor after party line votes in Legislature

By: - January 26, 2022 1:33 pm

Rep. Jason Probst wore a zany pair of socks to illustrate the nonsensical nature of the Ad Astra map, a Republican-backed redistricting map now headed to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk. (Pool photo by Evert Nelson/Topeka Capital-Journal)

TOPEKA — A proposed map of the state’s congressional district boundaries headed Wednesday to the governor for further consideration, despite claims the “Ad Astra” plan would disenfranchise communities of interest and minorities.

Republican supporters said the process to determine the maps was fair and end product reflected a changing state. Opponents of the map said it was a clear gerrymander meant to splinter the Democratic vote and that there wasn’t sufficient consideration of public testimony.

Some Democrats said the 2nd Congressional District looks like an elephant. Rep. Jason Probst, a Hutchinson Democrat, said he chose to wear his Kansas socks Tuesday to demonstrate the importance of the issue to the people of Kansas.

“Today, as we cast the final vote on the Ad Astra map, I wore my taco, avocado and alien socks because putting those three things together makes far more sense than putting Lawrence in the same district as Bird City or Wyandotte County with Mulberry,” Probst said.

House legislators voted 79-37 to approve the map, following the lead of the Senate, where the same map passed 26-9. The map lacked the 84 votes required to override a veto should Gov. Laura Kelly choose to do so, although some legislators were absent.

Among points of contention in the plan was breaking up the Kansas City metro area, dividing Wyandotte along Interstate 70. The decision to move Lawrence into a rural district that stretches to the Colorado border was also met with pushback from Democrats, who said the intent to diminish the voting power of the 2nd District community was clear.

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the disregard for the desires of Kansans who testified in support of maintaining the core of Johnson and Wyandotte counties together was clear.

“This map is a textbook definition of racial and partisan gerrymandering, and I simply cannot support a map that blatantly disregards the agreed upon guidelines,” Burroughs said. “Residents were spurned for the purposes of weakening a Democratic stronghold, strengthening the Republican position and diluting the minority vote. This is completely unacceptable.”

Adding to concerns about public input, Democrats were frustrated with what they called a rushed process to approve this map.

Rep. Nick Hoheisel, R-Wichita, said the process has been transparent since the beginning.

“We held dozens of public hearings, traveling the state and putting hundreds of miles on our vehicles, visiting communities and gathering input,” Hoheisel said. “For the first time in Kansas history, folks could testify in committee from the comfort of their homes.”

Rep. Steve Huebert, who said Tuesday gerrymandering was simply part of the political process, backed the map because he said the election results in 2020 would be the same under the new map.

“Ultimately, each of us as representatives are responsible to our constituents and making decisions on redistricting for the next 10 years,” the Valley Center Republican said. “We followed the guidelines and listened to the comments of Kansans throughout the process.”

Rep. Dan Osman, D-Overland Park, took to Twitter before the vote to express disappointment the map was even under consideration.

“Final action to be called on SB 355 aka Disenfranchisement,” he said. “Wait. My apologies. I’ve been told it’s officially called Ad Astra.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.