Kansas Republicans Put Children in Danger to Protect Gerrymandered Map

February 8, 2022

Washington, DC — The Republican-led Kansas Senate just voted to override Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a gerrymandered congressional map, going against the will of Kansans by making a backdoor deal that sacrifices the health of Kansas children. According to The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, the following occurred before the vote: 

“Just hours earlier, a Kansas Senate committee endorsed Steffen’s plan expanding use of unproven and potentially dangerous medicines for COVID-19, while loosening vaccine requirements for kids. The same measure could help Steffen escape scrutiny for his medical practices, including the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID. It was a clear payoff to [Sen. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson] for changing his vote.”

Without that vote, Senate Republicans would have failed, again, to override the Governor’s veto. Other Kansas Republicans have stated the obvious. The Kansas City Star reported that Sen. Dennis Pyle said the quiet part out loud regarding the gerrymandered map: “The truth is we can do better.” Rep. Steve Huebert is quoted in the Kansas Reflector admitting the following: “Gerrymandering, partisan politics, all those different things that are being discussed and talked about right now, are just things that happen. They always have and they always will.”

As this moves to the Kansas House, it is notable that House Republicans who support the veto override have already publicly admitted that they’re ignoring the will of their own constituents. Here’s one example as reported in The Kansas City Star:  

“[Rep. Samantha Poetter Parshall], a Paola Republican who was absent for the first vote, said she planned to vote for the map even though she’s received negative feedback. ‘I’ve had several constituents reach out and they have concerns about being lumped into CD3 because of past maps that have lumped Miami County into CD3 and don’t necessarily feel that they have been properly represented as being more rural than Johnson County,’ Poetter Parshall said. ‘Having looked at all the options, I personally believe that it’s the best we have and the best we can come up with.’”

A growing number of Kansas Republicans have raised serious concerns about the gerrymandered congressional map, also known as Ad Astra 2, which splits apart the Kansas City metro area – the most populous and diverse region of the state. 

Here are some examples of the concerns Kansas Republicans have raised about Ad Astra 2: 

The Kansas City Star [02/03/22]:

“Anthony Mersman, an Anderson County commissioner, said last week he saw the decision to group his rural county with the KC Metro as a political move that dismissed the needs of his county. When asked whether Anderson County held anything in common with Johnson, Mersman laughed. ‘If it has anything to do with trying to make it the same between Johnson County and Anderson County you know that ain’t going to work,’ Mersman said. ‘The only people from Johnson County that come down to Anderson County are driving down the highway and they happen to go through because they’ve got to go to Oklahoma to the basketball game.’…

“…Don Stottlemire, a Franklin County Commissioner, agreed. ‘These two areas have totally different ideas on how to function as a government. Franklin County needs to remain in a district with more rural ideas,’ he said.”

The Kansas City Star [01/23/22]:

Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican, was the lone Republican opposing the map. He criticized party leadership for politicizing the process and failing to draw fair lines. ‘It ought to make every one of us uncomfortable that if we can’t get together and come up with a map with 21 votes we’re going to end up with problems,’ Pyle said.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal [01/10/22]: 

“Rural residents might not be thrilled about sharing a district with Kansas City, Kan., six hours to the east. The district traditionally holds a seat on the House Agriculture Committee, which could also be in jeopardy.

“And some legislators might not be comfortable with blowing up the status quo. Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, said he would prefer to ‘massage’ the current district lines. ‘I don’t see how you get parts of Wyandotte and stick them out with the people that live in Weskan,’ said Patton, who sits on the House Redistricting Committee. ‘They don’t have the same interests. And so I think we need to do our best to keep people as close as possible.’…

“…‘We need to make sure that we are not diluting voices in rural areas to satisfy some other interests in other parts of the state,’ [Rep. Bradley Ralph, R-Dodge City,] said.”