Kansas GOP: We have to win to gerrymander state's only Democrat out of Congress

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Kansas state Senate President Susan Wagle is taking aim at the House seat held by Democrat Sharice Davids.

Sen. Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the Kansas state Senate, told donors last month that if her party keeps its supermajority in the legislature, she will gerrymander the state's four congressional districts to create an entirely Republican delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Redistricting is right around the corner. And if Gov. Kelly can veto a Republican bill that gives us four Republican congressmen, that takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd — we can do that, I guarantee it. We can draw four Republican congressional maps, but we can't do it unless we have a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House."

Rep. Davids is the only Democratic member of the Kansas congressional delegation.

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Wagle's candid comments, made during a speech to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, a Republican Party affiliate, on Sept. 25, were first flagged Friday by political activist Davis Hammet.

Like all other states, Kansas must create new legislative and congressional maps next year based on the results of the 2020 U.S. census. The state is not expected to gain or lose any seats in its U.S. House delegation, meaning the legislature will have to draw four congressional districts with roughly equal populations.

Political analysts expect that the same parties will likely hold all four seats after the November election.

Kansans elected Laura Kelly, a Democrat, as governor in 2018. But Republicans currently hold supermajorities in the legislature that are large enough to override Kelly's vetoes, both on legislation and on redistricting maps. After gaining ground in Kansas in recent years, Democrats are mounting a push to win enough seats in November's state legislative races to deny the GOP their long-held two-thirds share.

Though few political leaders are as brazen about their gerrymandering plans as Wagle, the sort of partisan scheme she is suggesting is not all that unusual.

Democrats and Republicans have both long used gerrymandering to game the system in states where they hold a majority. In recent years Republicans have managed to rig the maps in some purple and blue-leaning states, ensuring congressional delegations that are much more Republican than the voting population. In 2012, for example, President Barack Obama won Michigan by nearly 10 points, but Republicans won nine of the state's 14 House seats.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 last year that the federal courts may not step in to block political gerrymanders. But in recent years, GOP political gerrymanders have been struck down by state Supreme Courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, under their state constitutions.

While the Kansas electorate has a distinct Republican tilt, it is not 75% Republican, let alone 100%.

According to the Kansas secretary of state, only about 812,000 the state's roughly 1,850,000 registered voters (43.9%) are registered Republicans; 26% are Democrats, and 29.2% are unaffiliated. FiveThirtyEight's polling average currently finds Donald Trump with a 6.8-point lead over Joe Biden in the presidential race, with Trump polling at only 50%.

If Wagle is able to craft the maps as she hopes to, 100% of Kansas' House seats will be represented by the party supported by less than 44% of its voters.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.