CASE SUMMARY

On February 14, 2022, a group of Kansas voters and a Kansas non-profit filed a lawsuit against Kansas's Secretary of State and the Election Commissioner of Wyandotte County challenging the state's enacted congressional plan as violating several different provisions of the Kansas Constitution. First, plaintiffs assert that the enacted congressional plan is a partisan gerrymander designed to favor Republicans and disfavor Democrats in violation of the plaintiffs' right to vote under Article 5, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution and Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Bill of Rights, as well as the Kansas Constitution's Equal Protection (Bill of Rights Sections 1-2), Freedom of Speech (Bill of Rights Section 11), and Freedom of Assembly (Bill of Rights Section 3) clauses. Second, they allege that the enacted congressional plan dilutes the voting strength of Black and Hispanic residents in violation of Article 5, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution and Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. They are seeking a judicial declaration that the enacted plan violates the Kansas Constitution, an injunction barring the defendants from using the plan in the 2022 primary and general elections, and a court order requiring the state to adopt a new, constitutional congressional plan in the event the state fails to do so in a timely manner.

On April 25, the district court issued its ruling striking down the congressional plan as violating various provisions of the Kansas Constitution. First, the court held partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable by Kansas courts and, pursuant to the Kansas Constitution's guarantees of equal protection, free speech and assembly, and suffrage, are subject to strict scrutiny where the Court finds the Legislature acted with the purpose of achieving partisan gain by diluting the votes of disfavored-party members and the plan will have the desired effect of substantially diluting disfavored-party members' votes. Applying that standard, the court found the enacted plan constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of Sections 1, 2, 3, and 11 of the Kansas Bill of Rights and Article 5, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution. Second, the court articulated five non-exclusive factors for determining whether a plan constitutes intentional vote dilution and, applying that standard, held the plan intentionally and effectively resulted in the dilution of minority voting strength in violation of the equal protection guarantees under Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. Finally, the court rejected the defendants' argument that the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause barred state court review of congressional redistricting plans under state constitutions. Having declared the plan unconstitutional, the court enjoined the defendants from using it in future elections and ordered the Legislature to enact a remedial plan in accordance with its opinion "as expeditiously as possible," stating it must be prepared in time for all Kansas voters to know in which congressional district they reside. The defendants appealed this ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court the same day.

On May 18, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order reversing the district court's judgment and upholding the congressional plan as constitutional, stating a full opinion would be forthcoming.

Related Case: Alonzo v. Schwab

CASE LIBRARY

Kansas District Court, Wyandotte County - No. 2022-CV-89

Kansas Supreme Court - No. 125092