AG Derek Schmidt asks court to dismiss congressional map challenge

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On Friday, Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office formally asked the Kansas Supreme Court to uphold two challenges against newly enacted Republican congressional maps, after two lawsuits were filed against the districts earlier this week.

As part of the ruling, the attorney general is asking judges to dismiss the cases, arguing that they fall outside the state court system and insisting that the challenges in the lawsuits are without merit.

The dueling lawsuits, filed Monday in Wyandotte County District Court, argued that the maps violated the Kansas Constitution and the Kansas Legislature’s own redistricting guidelines, particularly in the way from which they divide the metropolitan area of ​​Kansas City, Kan.

Governor Laura Kelly vetoed the maps, but the legislature successfully reversed her decision earlier this month.

Continued:Groups sue Republican-drafted congressional cards in state court, arguing racial and partisan gerrymandering

The lawsuits are the first time congressional maps have been challenged in the state court system rather than the federal court system, although legislative districts have been challenged at the state level.

But in Friday’s filing, Solicitor General Brent Laue argued the move was unusual for a reason, saying in the filing that the questions “are not valid under Kansas law” and that state courts have no role in the process of redistricting Congress.

“There is a good reason why these lawsuits find no support in precedent: neither the Federal Constitution nor the Kansas Constitution authorizes state courts to pass on the validity of maps of the Federal Congress, and certainly not according to legal theories advanced by plaintiffs in recently filed cases,” Laue said.

Even though the Supreme Court chose to take up the case, Laue said federal standards should be applied to the trial’s racial gerrymandering claims.

The Kansas Constitution makes no specific mention of congressional redistricting.

But the lawsuits argue the map violates the Equal Rights and Political Power clauses of the Kansas Constitution, as well as residents’ rights to free speech, assembly and suffrage.

In a statement, Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas, said the attorney general’s arguments “would give this legislature virtually unchecked power to violate Kansas’ constitutional rights for purely partisan purposes.”

“The Attorney General’s argument that Kansas courts have no authority to interpret their own state’s constitution is without merit,” Brett said. “The Kansas Supreme Court can – and indeed should – determine whether legislation passed by the Kansas Legislature violates the constitutional rights of the State of Kansas.”

Partisan gerrymandering claims in federal court have become virtually impossible, leading card opponents to believe their best bet is in the state court system. Other state high courts, notably in North Carolina, have struck down maps they deemed unconstitutional.

Schmidt’s office is pushing the Kansas Supreme Court to take the case directly and bypass the district court, arguing there is a “compelling need for a speedy and authoritative decision on the important legal issues presented.” .

A motion to expedite the cases is currently expected to be considered by the district court next month.

Andrew Bahl is a senior reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 443-979-6100.

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