Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to Kansas congressional map
The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not take up a challenge to Kansas’s GOP-drawn congressional map.
The justices in a brief, unsigned order rejected an appeal from a group of Kansas voters, who argued that a lower court used the wrong legal standard in upholding the map.
A state trial court had initially struck down the map, finding the legislature intentionally discriminated against minority voters because of their race in designing the congressional district boundaries.
The map split Wyandotte County, which is home to Kansas City, and the challengers asserted the move eliminated the ability of minority voters to continue electing their preferred candidate. The state, meanwhile, argued the changes were necessary to respond to population growth in the area.
The Kansas Supreme Court then reversed in favor of the state, finding that the challengers failed to show that the minority voters in question were sufficiently numerous to form their own majority-minority district.
The 4-3 decision ruled the showing was a precondition for the challengers to bring their claim, a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Thornburg v. Gingles case.
But the challengers contended that Gingles should only apply to Voting Rights Act lawsuits that claim a map resulted in discrimination. The voters say their lawsuit challenges the map as intentional discrimination, a claim brought directly under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
“Under this conception of the Fourteenth Amendment, where minority voters are fewer in number or more dispersed, states have carte blanche to intentionally discriminate against them in drawing districts — even if the legislature announced that it acted specifically to disadvantage minority voters,” the challengers wrote in their brief to the justices.
“This intolerable rule would apply across most of the country, given the relatively small number of areas with sufficiently numerous and concentrated minority populations.”
The challengers’ original complaint in state court included additional claims of political gerrymandering, which the federal courts do not have the authority to hear. The case only later shifted to entirely focus on the issue of race.
Describing the case as a “creature of state law,” the GOP-led state contended the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the challenge.
Even if the court did have jurisdiction, Kansas argued the map was lawful and did not involve intentional discrimination.
“Petitioners’ argument is premised on the theory that this case involves intentional minority vote dilution,” the state wrote. “But it is not plausible that the Kansas Legislature enacted SB 355 with a racially discriminatory purpose. Petitioners’ claims would therefore fail regardless of the answer to the question presented.”
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