Attorney general to seek prompt Kansas Supreme Court approval of legislative district maps

Redrawn boundaries of House, Senate passed on bipartisan votes

By: - April 16, 2022 10:05 am
Dozens of Schmidts endorsed the reelection of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly rather than election of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the leading Republican in the 2022 governor's race. (Photos by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Dozens of Schmidts endorsed the reelection of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly rather than election of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the leading Republican in the 2022 governor’s race. (Photos by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt plans to promptly submit redrawn House and Senate district maps for review by the Kansas Supreme Court and recommend the justices affirm constitutionality of the new boundaries.

“The new legislative district boundaries appear to satisfy all legal requirements previously established by state constitutional, statutory or common law,” Schmidt said.

After published in the Kansas Register, the attorney general has 15 days to file a request of the state Supreme Court to review the legislative district maps of the 40 Senate and 125 House districts.

“I will ask the Kansas Supreme Court to approve the new district boundaries as quickly as possible so candidate filing for this year’s legislative elections can proceed without unnecessary disruption or delay,” he said.

The filing deadline for the Aug. 2 primary election is noon June 1. Up for grabs in 2022: one of the two U.S. Senate seats, all four U.S. House seats, all six Kansas government statewide offices, all 125 Kansas House seats, five of the 10 Kansas Board of Education seats.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat seeking a second term as governor, signed the bill containing new maps for both chambers of the Legislature as well as the state Board of Education.

Each map was to reflect population shifts in the past 10 years, but the process doesn’t forbid crafting maps with political spin. GOP leadership informed Democrats that if they didn’t go along with this version of maps, subsequent versions would likely result in fewer Democrats in the Legislature.

Redistricting maps are open to veto by a governor in Kansas, an option Kelly declined after Senate Bill 563 containing the House, Senate and Board of Education maps was approved by bipartisan majorities. It passed the Senate 29-11 and the House 83-40.

Kelly vetoed in February the new congressional map in Senate Bill 355, but the House and Senate overrode the governor. There are pending legal challenges of the Republican-curated map of the four congressional districts. Lawsuits were filed contesting movement of half of Wyandotte County to the more rural 2nd District and shifting Lawrence to the agrarian 1st District. The attorney general’s office is defending legality of the congressional map.

Schmidt, who is a candidate for governor likely to face Kelly in November, said legislative district maps were subject to final approval of the Supreme Court. If the court found the maps violated state law, the Legislature would have an opportunity to draw boundary lines again.

“Unlike congressional redistricting where the attorney general’s role is to defend the redrawn boundaries against legal attacks brought by dissatisfied parties, the attorney general is required by the state constitution to proactively seek judicial review of new legislative district boundaries in the Kansas Supreme Court. I will do so promptly,” Schmidt said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.