Of the 50 states, Kansas now stands as the only one that has yet to draw new congressional boundaries.
And it's one of a handful of states that have yet to draw new state Senate and House districts, threatening to further delay candidate filing deadlines for the 2012 elections -- and possibly even the Aug. 7 primary.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Wednesday said lawmakers' slow pace in redistricting is creating a "constitutional crisis," and he asked a federal judge to intervene because lawmakers can't get the job done.
"I don't want to go to court," Kobach said at a news conference. "I don't want to play any role in drawing these district lines. I am simply saying, 'Please do your job. Take this out of my hands.' "
Kobach's filing came in response to a lawsuit filed earlier in federal court by an Olathe precinct committee member seeking a resolution to the legislative redistricting logjam. Officials already have pushed back the filing deadline for state candidates from June 1 to June 11, far later than Missouri's March 27 deadline.
Meanwhile, Kobach and other state officials are warning that Kansas' primary may also have to be delayed if lawmakers can't resolve the impasse. The state already stands dangerously close to missing a June 23 federal deadline for mailing ballots to military personnel and overseas citizens.
The state Senate is ground zero in the ongoing battle over redistricting, a contentious process that occurs every 10 years as a result of new census numbers. Moderate and conservative Republicans are fighting over Senate lines with both sides seeking an edge that will enable them to control the chamber next year.
On Wednesday, the Senate had tentatively scheduled a debate on a proposed map. But in the early afternoon, Senate President Steve Morris shut down the chamber for the day while a redistricting committee was trying to reach a resolution.
Emotions in the state Senate have been running high over proposals that carved three conservative challengers out of districts represented by moderate Republicans.
Tempers flared again Tuesday evening during a Senate Republican caucus meeting. Accused of playing politics with the maps, Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, angrily said he was tired of talking about that "garbage" and stormed out of the committee room.
"I was tired of the anger and the hate in the room," said Owens, an Overland Park Republican.
Conservatives said they were agitated because Senate President Steve Morris and Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, both moderates, did not attend the meeting.
"That doesn't send a positive message to the caucus." said state Sen. Julia Lynn, a conservative Republican from Olathe.
Conservatives demanded that Morris and Emler appear before the entire Republican caucus to discuss the new boundaries, which are making a political mess of the final days of the Legislature in what has become the longest wrap-up session in Kansas history.
Kobach blamed the Senate for the redistricting tug-of-war. He said attempts to gerrymander some district lines and remove conservative challengers from districts that moderates now hold "simply has no place in redistricting.
"The time is short and we need the maps to be completed as soon as possible," he added, noting that if the Legislature could finish its job by the end of the week, the court case would be moot.
A former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, Kobach filed his motion for a three-judge panel to draw districts for Congress as well as the state Senate, House and Board of Education. As the state's chief election officer, he also said his office is willing to provide district maps as an alternative, but he wouldn't disclose which ones might be presented.
Kobach's motion was in response to a lawsuit brought by Robyn Essex, a Republican Party precinct committee member. One of Essex's attorneys, Brent Haden of Columbia, Mo., is a former chief of staff to Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican.
Essex argued in her lawsuit that the state's existing political boundaries violate her constitutional rights because they haven't been adjusted yet to account for shifts in the population during the last 10 years.
Prospective candidates themselves said that they also were frustrated. Cindy Neighbor of Shawnee is interested in running for the 2nd District state Board of Education seat now held by Sue Storm.
But she's waiting to make a final decision. "It's going to depend on how they draw those lines," said Neighbor, a former state lawmaker.
She said she's frustrated by the Legislature's inability to pass new maps. "You're not going to start developing your final campaign plan until you know what your demographics are," Neighbor explained
Kyle Russell also is frustrated. Russell, chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party, said he has a handful of candidates interested in running for the state House. Even though the House map doesn't appear to be a major point of contention, some of his potential candidates don't want to file until the maps are finalized for fear of tipping off their Republican rivals.
Some of those Republicans might work to redraw boundary lines to exclude known challengers, Russell noted. "Nothing's final until it's final," he said.
But maintaining a degree of secrecy comes with a price. Candidates can't begin raising money without publicly declaring their interest. Likewise, they can't start campaigning door-to-door without tipping off potential rivals.
As a result, Russell said, incumbents have an advantage. Many current officeholders have been raising money for months.
"It can only benefit incumbents the more the primary campaign gets compressed," he said.
Joan Wagnon, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party, said she has a candidate for Congress eager to begin campaigning, but who is unsure of his district.
"It's burying us," Wagnon said of the Legislature's infighting.
"Democracy works when you have contests, when people have choices," she said. "When you can't figure out where you even live in a district, that puts a chilling effect on trying to recruit candidates."