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A top Kansas government attorney argued Monday that congressional redistricting is naturally political and that the Kansas Supreme Court shouldn’t try to decide when partisanship goes too far, only to be chastised by one of the justices for making a “boys will be boys” argument.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that represented the first time that a Kansas court declared that partisan gerrymandering violates the state constitution. The lower court ruling struck down a Republican congressional redistricting law that would make it harder for the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation to win reelection this year. The GOP-controlled Legislature enacted it over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto.

Federal judges — not the Kansas courts — have typically reviewed congressional boundaries, but the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2019 that complaints about partisan gerrymandering are political issues and not for the federal courts to resolve.

Kansas Solicitor General Brant Laue argued that Kansas’ top court should take the same position. The Kansas Constitution mentions only legislative redistricting and does not contain any specific provisions prohibiting gerrymandering.

“Congressional redistricting is political by design,” Laue said. “The Legislature, and not the state judiciary, is designed and equipped to make the political determinations that cannot be avoided.”

The Supreme Court did not say when it would rule, though both sides are hoping it will be within days. Also, the Legislature is set to reconvene next week for a day or two of work if the justices reject the new congressional map or new boundaries for legislative districts that the court also reviewed Monday. The Kansas secretary of state’s office on Monday delayed the filing deadline for congressional and legislative candidates to June 10 from June 1.

During Monday’s hearing, the seven-member court wrestled with how to determine when improper political gerrymandering has occurred. Justice Caleb Stegall questioned whether the term can be clearly defined.

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