Now it’s federal judges who are racing the clock. With the Aug. 7 primary election looming, a panel of federal judges will try to do in a few weeks what the Kansas Legislature couldn’t in three months: draw new election districts. The three judges — Kathryn Vratil, Mary Beck Briscoe and John Lungstrom of U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., — on Wednesday concluded a two-day hearing that examined the Legislature’s unsuccessful efforts to redraw election districts for Congress, the state House and Senate, and the Board of Education. The Legislature met for 99 days and couldn’t come up with district maps to account for population shifts reflected in the latest census. As a result, the court is doing the job.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the judges that the upcoming primary should be delayed until Aug. 14 if they can’t draw new maps by the week of June 14-20. But Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer, warned that scheduling a primary after Aug. 14 would be difficult because the start of school could hinder efforts to identify polling sites.
The panel assured the dozens of lawyers and legislators who packed a Kansas City, Kan., courtroom that it would move expeditiously. “There’s nothing on our docket which has higher attention at this point,” Chief Judge Vratil said.