TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Kansas Republicans officially brought a controversial redistricting map back to life on Wednesday.

Republicans in the House voted to override the governor’s veto of a congressional map, called “Ad Astra.” 85 lawmakers voted in favor, and 37 against, which was one vote over the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

Democrats, however, are skeptical about how GOP leaders managed to get the numbers needed to move the plan forward.

“It was this arm-twisting, these backroom deals,” Rep. Rui Xu, D-Westwood, said. “We came in knowing there are probably four-ish swing votes that we knew of, so those were the obvious people to target. They probably had a list of things that they wanted, and it was just negotiations with leadership.”

Opponents claim the map removes democratic voters from the state’s swing congressional district, which would jeopardize the seat of the state’s only democrat in Congress, Sharice Davids. The House came to a standstill on Wednesday, as Republicans scrambled to find votes.

Some democrats believe agreements were made behind-the-scenes to advance legislation, and elicit last-minute votes.

However, Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman denied the claims.

“We had a few members that were missing and some other members that didn’t have a chance to review the maps,” Ryckman said.

Rep. Michael Houser, R-Columbus, who was out sick for weeks, made his first appearance of session, adding his vote to the tally. Other legislators also voted to override the veto after several roll calls.

Ryckman explained that there were conversations about getting the override done.

“It wasn’t anybody that was against the map that was a ‘no,’ it was other issues outside the map,” Ryckman said. “It really didn’t have anything to do with this actual bill, this override, it was other things they’d like to have hearings on, other discussions. We just had a lot of good talks back and forth, understanding of each other and how to move forward.”


The scene in the House on Wednesday was almost similar to that of the Senate earlier in the week.

Senate Republicans failed to override the veto on Monday, but after a sudden motion to adjourn from Senate President Ty Masterson, they were able to successfully take action the following day.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, told Kansas Capitol Bureau that some senators were able to get legislation fast-tracked as part of a deal to switch their vote.

“Overnight, there’s activity and phone calls being made by leadership to try and get people to change their vote,” Holscher said. “It became pretty apparent that there were some trades made, because then the next day some bills were moving very fast that hadn’t been. And then another vote was taken in the Senate, and people who had voted against the veto override flipped their votes, and that clinched the deal.”

Holscher claimed one of the agreements appeared to involve legislation supported by Senator Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson.

Steffen is currently backing a bill that would requires pharmacists to fill prescriptions for off-label drugs, like ivermectin, to treat coronavirus. Another bill would allow parents to bypass school vaccine requirements.

“All of a sudden, yesterday, both of those bills were inserted into a House bill and passed out of committee,” Holscher said.

According to Holsher, the language from both bills has been added to HB 2280, which already passed the House last year. Now, it could move to the Senate floor for debate.

When asked Tuesday about why a couple of Senators switched their vote to override the veto, Senate President Masterson encouraged reporters to ask the lawmakers directly. Steffen has not commented on why his vote changed.

House Speaker Ryckman commented on the situation, after the House took final action. He said House leadership was not involved in the Senate vote.

“We didn’t have a lot to do with the Senate vote,” Ryckman said. “In fact, Senate President at one point called in and checked in on me. I gave him my thoughts. Didn’t make any commitments to him. He didn’t ask for a commitment.”


There are still concerns over what the passage of the “Ad Astra” map could mean for the state’s political future.

The map splits Wyandotte County, removing the northern half from democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids’ district.

Some democrats and some residents of the area believe that the change limits the minority voice.

“The people of Kansas were short-changed,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City. “Their voices were muted in a compressed schedule that didn’t allow them to see maps. Now you’ve seen them when they’re drawn in backroom opportunities.”

However, Republicans have argued that the map is “fair.” Rep. Chris Croft, R-Overland Park, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee echoed comments from other Republicans and Senate leadership.

“We worked hard to put this bill together. We brought it out here and presented it. We had so many opportunities for people to input their information,” said Rep. Chris Croft, R-Overland Park, who chairs the state’s House Redistricting Committee.

The “Ad Astra” map has also been criticized for making another “partisan” move to take Lawrence, one city in Douglas County, and move it to the “Big First” congressional district, which is otherwise composed of more rural areas.

The move has also upset some representatives of the area, who spoke out against the plan before it moved out of committee.

“We are proud of our Douglas County community. We vote the way our people feel and we’re entitled to that. The same as the rest of the state,” Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence said.

In the end, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they foresee litigation over the maps.

Rep. Burroughs said the people of Kansas deserve “transparency.”

“I do believe there’s going to be legal action. I think that was part of the strategy on the other side to hurry and get this bill passed, and override the governor, so they can move it on to court action,” Burroughs said. “The public deserves integrity within the system.”