Missouri Voters Could Give Bipartisan Commissions Redistricting Authority Instead of a Nonpartisan Demographer
Should Missouri return to using bipartisan commissions to redistrict?
by The 2020 Causes Voter Center | 10.25.20
What the Initiative Does
This legislatively referred constitutional amendment, known as Missouri Amendment 3, would reverse redistricting changes that voters previously approved by ballot measure in 2018. Specifically, it would amend the Missouri Constitution to return the state to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and rename the commissions as the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission. Each commission would consist of 20 members.
This measure would also eliminate the position of nonpartisan state demographer, which was created by the approval of Amendment 1 in 2018.
Finally, this measure would change the threshold of lobbyists’ gifts from $5 to $0 and lower the campaign contribution limit for state Senate campaigns to $2,400 (currently, the limit is $2,500).
Argument in Favor
Many Missourians didn’t fully understand that Amendment 1, the 2018 measure that established a new redistricting process, created a nonpartisan state demographer to oversee the redistricting process, and established campaign contribution limits for state campaigns. Therefore, it’s wrong to hold Missouri to the passage of Amendment 1. Rather, this measure should be evaluated by Missouri voters as a change to make an educated decision on whether or not to dispense with the longstanding use of bipartisan commissions to establish voting districts.
The question of whether Missourians believe the use of bipartisan commissions to draw voting districts has already been asked and answered. In 2018, 62% of Missourians voted in favor of Amendment 1, which established the nonpartisan state demographer, moved the state away from the use of bipartisan commissions to establish voting districts, and imposed campaign contribution limits for state-level campaigns. There’s no need to return this question to the voters via this measure, which is an attempt by certain lawmakers to create super-safe districts for themselves to serve their own political interests.
Fair Missouri is leading the campaign in support of this measure. On its website, the campaign says:
“To ensure that the [redistricting] process is not controlled by one political party or politician, FAIR will create a bipartisan commission of 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans to lead redistricting, which will significantly decrease the chance of corruption."
Missouri State Rep. Sara Walsh (R), who supports this measure, adds:
“Partisan fairness/equal efficiency/competitiveness is where the 50/50 districts generalization is derived from. I visited at length with representatives from urban communities on the freshman tour, and they were equally concerned (as are representatives of rural communities) about losing the voice of the people they represent in the Legislature if urban and rural communities are sliced up to equalize districts statewide."
State Sen. Dan Hegeman (R), who represents Missouri’s most rural Senate district, is the sponsor of this ballot measure. Sen. Hegeman says he led the decision to go back to voters because he wants to protect both rural and urban communities and cultures by overturning the untested redistricting process approved in Clean Missouri before it’s used to redistrict based on the 2020 Census next year. On the Senate floor, Hegeman promised that passage of Amendment 3 would simply return Missouri “back to a civil process that we have used time and time again I would argue for many decades,” which has at various times resulted in legislative majorities for both Democrats and Republicans.
However, opponents to Amendment 3 on both sides of the aisle contend that this measure would actually radically change redistricting. Former Sen. Jack Danforth (R), who opposes this measure, says it is a “redistricting scheme more extreme than Missouri has ever seen.”
Clean Missouri is leading the “No on 3” campaign opposing this measure. On its site, No on 3 calls this measure “the politicians’ deceptive plan to rig the maps,” elaborating:
“The Clean Missouri Amendment passed by an almost 2-to-1 margin in 2018, after a year-long signature gathering effort by Missouri citizens and a statewide campaign. The fair map reforms in Amendment 1 earned endorsements from Republican, Independent, and Democratic reformers — and endorsements from every major anti-gerrymandering organization. The hard work on policy development, signature gathering, and talking to friends and neighbors paid off: Amendment 1 won a majority of the vote in every state senate district, from rural communities to big cities. But now Jefferson City politicians have a new, radical plan on the ballot — to overturn the fair map rules put into law by voters, and to replace the good policy in our constitution now with a radical gerrymandering scheme. Their plan is deceptive, deceitful, and all about protecting incumbent politicians in rigged, super-safe districts where voters can’t hold them accountable.”
Clean Missouri argues that voters already made their opinions on redistricting known in 2018, when 62% of Missourians voted in favor of Amendment 1 in 2018. By passing Amendment 1, Missourians created the non-partisan state demographer responsible for state legislative redistricting; prohibited the state legislature from passing laws allowing unlimited campaign contributions to state legislature candidates; and set campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and candidate committees at $2,500 per person. These changes would generally be reversed by this measure.
Additionally, Clean Missouri contends that this measure would increase gerrymandering with changes that no other state has, such as not counting children or immigrants when drawing maps under the principle “one person, one vote.” To this point, Clean Missouri’s communications director, Sean Soendker Nicholson, said at an October 13 Drury University forum that Amendment 3 would create the “most rigged maps in the United States, unlike anything any other state is doing, unlike anything in the United States. Groups that fight gerrymandering, every single one of them says Amendment 3 is an extreme radical plan that ought to be defeated.”
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) opposes this ballot measure. In a letter to the state auditor, Mayor Krewson wrote:
“[Amendment 3] would have a significant fiscal impact on local governments and small businesses in Missouri if the population standard for state legislative maps is changed from using total population to a citizen voting-age population or eligible voter standard. ... We should expect a significant impact on Missouri's small businesses, the local economy, local sales taxes, local lodging taxes, and state income taxes if maps are drawn in discriminatory way that disproportionately impacts Missourians of color."
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / filo)
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