Following the 1980 Census, the Kansas Legislature passed two different congressional redistricting plans, but the Governor vetoed both of them. The day after the second plan's veto, a group of Kansas voters (the "O'Sullivan plaintiffs") filed a federal lawsuit against Kansas's Secretary of State, challenging the state's then-existing congressional districts as being unconstitutionally malapportioned in violation of the one person, one vote principle under Article I, Section 2. Similarly, on May 5, 1982, another group of Kansas voters (the "Carson plaintiffs") filed a federal lawsuit against Kansas's Governor and Secretary of State challenging the state's congressional districts as unconstitutionally malapportioned. Both sets of plaintiffs alleged the state would likely fail to enact a properly apportioned plan in time for the 1982 elections and therefore sought the court's intervention to select and order a constitutional plan for use in the upcoming congressional elections, but they presented different plan proposals for the court's consideration. The O'Sullivan plaintiffs' proposed a plan that closely aligned with a bill supported by the Democratic minority in the state legislature which had a maximum population deviation of 0.11% and which prioritized avoiding unnecessary splits of political subdivisions. The Carson plaintiffs, whose plan had a maximum population deviation of 0.09% and largely tracked one of the plans passed by the Republican majority in the state legislature, reflected a least-changes approach from the prior map and, they argued, should be selected out of deference to the good-faith efforts of the legislators.
On June 3, 1982, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas issued an opinion adopting a plan substantially similar to the O'Sullivan plaintiffs' plan, but which included all of Reno County in the Fourth Congressional District. The court declined to give any deference to the legislators' efforts in the vetoed plans on the grounds that courts are afforded "broad" powers to adopt a valid redistricting plan in circumstances such as this where the existing plan is unconstitutional and the legislature fails to enact a new one in time. The court also found that the 0.338% maximum population deviation in its selected plan was compliant with the one person, one vote constitutional requirement because the slightly higher deviation was justified by the goal of keeping Kansas's political subdivisions, particularly Reno County, whole.
U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas - Nos. 82-1335 & 82-4096 [540 F. Supp. 1200]
- Opinion - 6/3/82