Topeka, KS– Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today filed an original action in the Kansas Supreme Court asking it to hold that legal challenges to the recently enacted congressional district map may not be brought in state courts and requesting that two district-court lawsuits filed earlier this week in Wyandotte County be dismissed.
“For the first time in Kansas history, lawsuits have been filed in state court asking a state district court judge to hold that redistricting legislation for federal congressional maps violates the Kansas Constitution,” Schmidt wrote in the petition filed on behalf of Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Michael Abbott. “There is a good reason these lawsuits find no support in precedent: Neither the federal nor the Kansas Constitution authorizes state courts to pass on the validity of federal congressional maps, and certainly not under the legal theories the Plaintiffs in the recently filed cases advance.”
Schmidt said bringing the suit directly in the Kansas Supreme Court would enable an expedited decision, which is needed because of election timelines. He said it also squarely presents the federal question, which the Wyandotte County plaintiffs carefully avoided, whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits Kansas state courts from entertaining state-law challenges to federal congressional district boundaries.
“The Elections Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] commits the redistricting power to state legislatures, and no Kansas law—either statutory or constitutional—gives the state courts any role in evaluating the validity of duly enacted redistricting plans,” Schmidt wrote.
Schmidt also asked the Kansas Supreme Court to rule that the Kansas Constitution does not prohibit the Legislature from considering political objectives when drawing congressional districts, just as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the U.S. Constitution does not.
“Plaintiffs’ political gerrymandering claim is not justiciable under the Kansas Constitution,” Schmidt wrote. “No judicially manageable standard for evaluating such claims exists, Kansas courts have not historically entertained such claims, and the Kansas Constitution has nothing at all to say about political gerrymandering.”
Finally, Schmidt asked the Kansas Supreme Court to hold that the plaintiffs in Wyandotte County district court have not alleged racial gerrymandering that is judicially actionable.
“[A] claim of unconstitutional vote dilution requires proof of discriminatory purpose, which Plaintiffs have failed to allege,” Schmidt wrote.
A copy of Schmidt’s petition is available at https://bit.ly/3s0RKEj.