To give you a graphic picture of what that might look like in real time, I share a very recent quote from Senate President Susan Wagle made to the Wichita Pachyderm Club: "A Republican bill that gives us 4 Republican Congressmen that take out Sharice Davids in the 3rd, we can do that. I guarantee you. We can draw four Republican Congressional maps."
How might this look? One possibility would be to take Democratic Wyandotte County away from Congresswoman Davids, sending it west to be lost in a sea of Republican rural counties. And yes, they can if they elect enough compliant Republican Legislators to have a 2/3rd’s plus majority in both Houses of the Legislature to override any Governor Kelly veto.
It took us almost two centuries in this country to achieve one person one vote, but now we fight both voter suppression so all have equal access to the voting booth and gerrymandered districts that give one party more power than the mix of registered voters would indicate. Wagle’s very partisan action certainly doesn’t help set the right environment for needed progress.
In a relatively recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, where there was an opportunity to address the obvious downside of gerrymandering, the Court failed to do so by a 5-4 majority, and basically sent the responsibility back to individual states to manage gerrymandering as they see fit. That may work in some states, but for many, the bulk of the power will shift to whichever party has the votes with fairness thrown out the window and districts drawn that make no practical sense at all for the constituents. In the most fundamental way, such a result is antithetical to our constitutional democracy.
In her dissenting opinion in that Supreme Court case, Justice Kagan laid bare the harms of gerrymandering: “The partisan gerrymanderers . . . deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their Constitutional rights: The rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives.” She explained: “The core principle of republican government, [as] this Court has recognized, is that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. Partisan gerrymandering turns it the other way around.” Finally, she quotes Madison for the proposition that this democratic violation puts “the government over the people.”
Senator Wagle brazenly endorses this debasement of our system of government. Her objective can only be avoided with certainty if there are enough representatives from both political parties in the Kansas Legislature to ensure that each party can participate effectively in the redistricting process.
Historically, we in Kansas have been fairly successful in avoiding extreme gerrymandering over the years. Having Democratic Governors with enough Democrats in the Legislature to uphold a veto has, for the most part, avoided crazy unfair maps. But now, with two weeks until the election that will determine the map makeup of the Kansas Legislature and our Congressional districts for the next ten years, Republican Legislative leaders it appears, have gerrymandering front and center.
Some will say, wouldn’t the Democrats do the same thing if they were in power? That may be true in some states, but in Kansas we typically are in the minority and at best we hope to avoid disaster. Nationally, we have regularly seen that Democratic-led states support some kind of outside entity drawing the district maps that are considered for enactment by the legislature.
The point is, if we want good government that truly represents the people, we want as much balance as fits the makeup of the state and not be governed by gerrymandering. Which brings us back to the election and who gets elected, which will determine just how fair those districts will be drawn. Vote now, and help make sure others do the same.