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Archive for Monday, May 21, 2012

Redistricting panel rejects arguments from Kobach, allows more intervenors

May 21, 2012

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— A panel of three federal judges Monday rejected arguments from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and allowed a host of plaintiffs into a lawsuit over the Legislature's failure to redraw legislative and congressional political boundaries.

The outcome of the lawsuit could have a big impact on Lawrence, which has been at the center of some of the redistricting disputes in the Legislature.

Kobach wanted to limit those allowed to intervene in the case, voicing concerns that accepting more plaintiffs might prolong the case and prevent him and other election officials from making deadlines in the run up to the Aug. 7 primaries. He said his most immediate concern was getting ballots mailed to military personnel deployed overseas.

But U.S. District Court judges — Kathryn Vratil, Mary Beck Briscoe and John Lungstrum — pushed back hard, saying that while they understood the urgency of the situation, they didn't want to be rushed and they wanted to hear input from various sources.

"I'm really troubled by this line of argument," said Vratil, the presiding judge of the panel. "I think the people of Kansas deserve better," than to have redistricting "ramrodded," she said. She also said to Kobach, "It seems like you are trying to restrict the information that's coming to us ."

Kobach said many of the people seeking plaintiff status had preferred district boundaries based on politics, but the judges said they at least wanted to hear their opinions.

At one point, Kobach said he was concerned that if more plaintiffs were involved, then attorneys might start seeking fees from the state in the case.

Lungstrum shot back, "That is a very weak argument. That is truly the tail wagging the dog." He said if awarding attorney fees was appropriate, the judges will grant them, and if not, they won't.

Kobach also brought up the death of state Rep. Bob Bethell, R-Alden, who died in a car wreck just hours after the end of the legislative session on Sunday. Kobach said without a quick resolution of district boundaries, officials in Bethell's district will have to meet a couple of times to pick a replacement. Lungstrum said that as a former county political official, he didn't think that would be a problem.

Greg Musil, one of several attorneys representing different groups of voters, argued for intervenor status, telling the judges, "This is historic, and it (the decision on district boundaries) will last for 10 years. It's more important to get it right than to get it fast."

After hearing arguments for an hour, the judges recessed for 15 minutes and returned, saying they were unanimous in allowing at least 13 individuals who had filed for intervenor status to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Testimony in the case is expected to take at least two days, May 29-30. Further proceedings may occur June 4-6.

Among those allowed to participate in the case are U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, whose 3rd congressional district includes eastern Douglas County; state Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, who was chair of the Senate redistricting committee; and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, who was the ranking Democrat on the House redistricting committee.

Legislators adjourned Sunday but were unable to agree on new district lines as conservative and moderate Republicans were locked in a bitter political battle.

In congressional redistricting, the state Senate had adopted a map that would have placed Lawrence wholly in the 2nd U.S. House District. Lawrence is currently divided between the 2nd and 3rd districts.

The House rejected that map and approved one dividing Lawrence between the 1st, which includes western Kansas and much of central Kansas, and 2nd districts. That plan was opposed by Lawrence legislators and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who represents the 1st. The proposal never gained traction in the Senate.

Conservative and moderate Republicans fought mostly over state Senate maps. The conservative House supported proposals that gave conservative Republicans a chance to take control of the Senate, while moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate formed a coalition to reject those efforts.

At least 15 attorneys were present at Monday's hearing, and several legislators, including state Rep. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, who is challenging Owens in the GOP primary.

The three-judge panel indicated it would use the computer software that legislators used to devise maps, and would also work with legislative staff.

After the hearing, Kobach was asked if he thought the legal proceedings would delay the primary. "It's too early to tell," he said.

Comments

none2 1 year, 11 months ago

I think we have to discuss the maps separately. I focused most my attention on the congressional maps. As relating to them, Brownback and the conservatives especially in the House have done a lame job. Riley County, maybe Pottawatomie need to go to the 1st district. There is absolutely nothing insulting for a WONDERFUL University with an outstanding agricultural emphasis to be associated with the western 2/3rd of the state which has a strong emphasis on agribusiness. If Tim Huelskamp is not for the bio hazard facility, then the Republicans need to work with him, or get him out of office.

As for the Senate map proposals, I hadn't paid much attention to them until recently. I don't know about the big complaints about Tim Owens, but i will say his maps for congressional districts came the closest to being "fair". Nevertheless, I did see big problems with some of the senate boundaries. Western Kansas most likely will have to give something up due to population shifts. However, the proposed was to combine to senate districts so that you would end up with a district with Liberal and Dodge City in southwestern Kansas way up to Hays in north central Kansas. Hayes to Liberal is 186 miles. To put it into prospective, imagine that they decided to create a new senate district for Marci Francisco and said she now represents Lawrence all the way down to Coffeyville, KS in southeast Kansas (and that is only 146 miles away!) Would that make sense to any rational person?

What are these people SMOKING??? Do they think there is some "liberal" vote in Liberal, KS or Hays that needs to be split? Why can't they use some common sense? If the district for Liberal and Dodge has to grow, then they need to include nearby counties with similar interests. Western Kansas isn't some united area. I grew up in southwestern Kansas, and if I have ever been to Hays, it was while on I-70 and I didn't even know I passed through it.

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Fossick 1 year, 11 months ago

Tomatogrower: I'm a big fan of people like Kassebaum and Dole who were not the "my way or the highway" kind of people.

So, big fan of Republican squishes but not of Dem ones. I know a lot of Republicans* who are a big fan of 'principled' Republicans and love Dem squishes as well. It goes along with being a tactically-thinking partisan, I guess.

I prefer liberal Dems to moderates just like I prefer conservative Republicans to moderates. When people believe in ideas, a creative person can find a way to work with them to get things done. When a person believes in nothing but his own power, all you can do is buy him off. That's why moderates give so many awards to each other.

The problem with the hard-right GOP in Kansas is not that they are any more bullies than the moderates - the moderates have bullied them for years. The problem is that they are not experienced enough at winning yet, and that they need some inter-party competition. Being the only game in town makes one careless, because there's no one breathing down your neck if you screw up. Inexperienced and careless is not a good combination.

  • some of my best friends are Republicans.
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jackbinkelman 1 year, 11 months ago

Thank you to the sensible Judges and Moderate Republicans!

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Jimo 1 year, 11 months ago

Kobach seems intent on breaking Kline's record for the number of times his name and "judge" can be combined in a sentence with a verbal synonym for "rejected."

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

As far as I know, mental intelligence has no correlation with moral/ethical intelligence. In fact, the more clever a person is, the more ways they can think up to insidiously do evil. But sometimes it all backfires.

Kobach may have just gotten himself caught in his own web.

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Grump 1 year, 11 months ago

I think the conservatives in the legislature have made a huge mistake (from their perspective) by pushing this into the federal courts. The three judges on the panel are all very independent minded, intelligent judges. They are not going to allow Kobach to put one over on them, as can already be seen by their rejection of his plea to not allow intervenors in. These three judge are not going to gerrymander the districts just to please O'Neal, Brownback, and Kobach.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 11 months ago

This is what happens when childish amateurism takes over the legislature and it fails to do its job.

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 11 months ago

"prolong the case and prevent him and other election officials from making deadlines in the run up to the Aug. 7 primaries. He said his most immediate concern was getting ballots mailed to military personnel deployed overseas." ++++ Yet he somehow finds the time to hang in in Fremont, Ne. where they even call him the "city's attorney." How many military ballots could have been sent out while KKKobach was gallivanting around, working out-of-state? He could have been in Kansas, doing Kansas stuff, being how he was on Kansas payroll.

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thuja 1 year, 11 months ago

I venture to guess that Kobach speeds in his car and runs red lights.

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jjinks 1 year, 11 months ago

Seems funny how most on here are ready to accept legislating from the bench

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Mike1949 1 year, 11 months ago

("I'm really troubled by this line of argument," said Vratil, the presiding judge of the panel. "I think the people of Kansas deserve better," than to have redistricting "ramrodded," she said. She also said to Kobach, "It seems like you are trying to restrict the information that's coming to us .")

Boy, did she hit the nail on the head! Of course being the Republicans that are pushing for this, if the courts take too long, the Republican party has someone to blame for it's failure! That is what the Republican party wanted, someone to blame!!!!!

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kansanjayhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

As a conservative iam appalled that our legislators left town without completing their job. Turning this over to the courts is an abdication of their duty to redistrict the political subdivisions of the State. The governor should call them back to finish the job sit down in a room together and get this done.

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Roland Gunslinger 1 year, 11 months ago

I doubt most people would be glad their ex-wife was on the panel. In fact the exact opposite would be true- they'd probably be worried about a conflict of interest -against- their case rather than for their case.

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pace 1 year, 11 months ago

Either Sam needs new judges, Or Kobotch needs to actually do the job instead of doing the scams. Probably Sam will reform the judicial arm as soon as opportunity arises. He has wrecked so many state organizations, of course his master plan is in trouble with the courts.

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Fossick 1 year, 11 months ago

This is judge Kathryn Vratil, ex-wife of Senate President John Vratil, who has a pretty big dog in this fight? No conflict of interest there, I'm pretty sure.

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toe 1 year, 11 months ago

A good political fight is worth watching. Taking time and adding participants makes for a much better outcome. In the end, no one will remember the outcome. Only the fight. Thus is politics.

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esteshawk 1 year, 11 months ago

"Kobach said many of the people seeking plaintiff status had preferred district boundaries based on politics . . .". Pot, meet kettle.

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gccs14r 1 year, 11 months ago

The TPers will now claim that "activist judges" are thwarting the will of the people. The managing editor of the paper out in Liberal is saying that the moderate Republicans should switch parties, claiming that they're really Democrats. All that cow smell must be melting their brains out there.

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thekansascitian 1 year, 11 months ago

Standing up for what's right? Three adults that will clean up the mess?

I love how Journal World failed to report Chief Justice Vratil, heading the panel, is the ex-wife of Senator Vratil, Owens' friend and confidant in the Kansas Senate.

They also didn't mention that the sole reason Kansas doesn't have a map is because Sen Owens is trying to gerrymander out his competition. He could have easily gotten a map passed if he would have agreed to retroactively accept anyone who has already filed to run in a district who may be affected by new boundaries... but nope, Owens is more concerned with keeping his power than in giving voters a choice.

I don't care who you are, when one of the justices, the head justice no less, is close personal friends with one of the plaintiffs you have a conflict of interest. Worse, the plaintiff in question wasn't even part of the case and his motion of intervention failed to demonstrate how his interests were not adequately represented by existing plaintiff's claims and requested remedies.

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WilburM 1 year, 11 months ago

Finally, three adults to clean up the mess created by the legislative adolescents (and the governor, and active co-conspirator).

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tange 1 year, 11 months ago

"I'm really troubled by this line of argument," said Vratil, the presiding judge of the panel. "I think the people of Kansas deserve better," than to have redistricting "ramrodded," she said. She also said to Kobach, "It seems like you are trying to restrict the information that's coming to us ."

I think I may be in love.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

The only thing standing between Kansas and a complete takeover by the radical right wing of the GOP is three judges.

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cowboy 1 year, 11 months ago

Kobach gets exposed as the incompetent attorney that he is , priceless.

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Steve Jacob 1 year, 11 months ago

I still can't get over any state government willingly handing over redistricting to the courts. We only have four districts, how hard can it be?

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observant 1 year, 11 months ago

Kobach wants to limit it to who he picks and only those who will do what he says.

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Many thanks to those who are sticking up for what is right, instead of putting power and party above the people they are representing.

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