Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, is considering hiring an attorney and asking the court if he can join the battle over redrawing state Senate, House and Congressional lines.
Olson represents Gardner, Edgerton, and a portion of Spring Hill in the Kansas
“Right now, it’s just crazy,” Olson said of the federal court case, Robyn Essex v. Kris Kobach, set to begin on May 29. “I’m starting to think maybe I better end up in this case or I’m going to have who knows what as a district. I’m debating right now. I never dreamed I’d get in this situation.”
Under one proposed redistricting map, Gardner would be grouped with part of Lawrence and Baldwin while Edgerton and Spring Hill would be paired with Miami County for Senate representation.
Olson believes the map, which was never reviewed by the full Senate, was filed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and may have originated in Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal’s office.
The assisting attorney defending the Secretary of State’s office is Ryan Kriegshauser, a former Gardner resident and Deputy Secretary of State. His wife, Christie Kriegshauser, serves on Speaker O’Neal’s staff.
Kobach, O’Neal, and Olson are all widely considered to be conservative Republicans.
“I’m pretty fed up right now with it. I thought we were all working together,” Olson said. “I’d like to know where (the map) came from.”
Deputy Secretary of State Ryan Kriegshauser said the map did not come from the Secretary of State’s Office.
“I can tell you our office wasn’t involved in drawing that map. We haven’t submitted any (maps) and I’m not sure we’re going to,” he said.
Olson said he’d like to determine where the map originated.
“Who wrote this map? That’s the real question,” he said. “It could’ve been done out of the Speaker’s office or legislative research. I’m planning to get down to the bottom of who wrote the map.”
Kriegshauser said the state’s Legislative Research department allowed citizens to utilize mapmaking software in their offices during the session, and that there are a number of maps out there – possibly even some that originated from members of the public.
Throughout the legislative session, Olson said he viewed more than 30 Senate redistricting maps.
“Almost all of the maps have Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill and the south part of Olathe together,” he said. “This is the only one I’ve seen that does what it does… I can’t explain why they did what they did.”
It’s probably too late for Olson to formally intervene in the redistricting case. The court set May 21 as a deadline for interested parties to enter the case.
“…I think the court would be hard-pressed to allow any more people in. It is a short time frame,” Kriegshauser said.
If Olson is unable to take legal action, he will write letters to other plaintiffs in the case asking that they not support a map that separates the more rural communities of Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill.
“It’s about these rural communities, and they shouldn’t be put with Douglas County and Miami County that they’d be controlled by,” Olson said.
For its part, Kriegshauser said the goal in his office is to ensure that elections occur on time.
Primary elections for state and federal offices are scheduled for Aug. 7. The
Secretary of State’s Office recently announced they would push back the deadline for candidates to file for some offices from June 1 to June 11.
“We’re interested in making sure the elections occur on time. We don’t want to delay elections and cause confusion of voters,” Kriegshauser said.
In the upcoming court case, a panel of three Tenth District Court Justices allowed more than 25 parties to intervene on the initial court case.
Hearings in the case are set to begin on May 29 in Kansas City, Kan.