GEFFERSON CITY – Tensions between the two Missouri State and Senate district redevelopment commissions have escalated, with Democrats and Republicans clashing in public relations.
The disagreement raises the question of whether the boards can reach a consensus by December 23, the deadline for approving the preliminary map.
Three months after the Census Bureau released new population data, officials in about half of the states have already approved a new voting map for the U.S. House of Representatives or the state legislature. But there isn’t much to show in Missouri.
Eight constituencies in the U.S. House of Representatives in Missouri will be redesigned by state lawmakers and will be closed until the January session. Separate bipartisan commissions tasked with reshaping the 163 districts of the State House and 34 districts of the Senate have been at loggerheads over whether to publish the draft map online and continue to receive public input.
Missouri’s redistribution efforts are “another process that has fallen victim to political extremism,” said Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Missouri.
Redistribution after the census can have significant consequences. Parties that choose favorable districts can strengthen the legislature to pass laws on controversial issues such as raising or lowering taxes, abortion, climate change, and gun rights.
This year, U.S. politicians are recruiting opposition constituencies to gather in several districts, or to split into multiple districts to weaken their influence. Republicans did it in North Carolina and Texas, while Democrats did it in Illinois and Oregon.
It was difficult to reach an agreement in the states that use a politically balanced commission. Boards in Virginia and Washington failed to confirm the map on time. The bipartisan commission in New York was also divided by guerrilla lines.
Missouri’s House of Representatives and Senate districts are elected by two 20-member commissions of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans under a constitutional amendment passed by voters last year. The commissioners heard from dozens of people during a nationwide hearing and received numerous written comments.
The most common request was to keep the community intact, rather than dividing states, cities, school districts, and districts into multiple districts. However, commission members are not united in their approach to the public.
The Senate council voted to keep the public opinion portal open throughout the process, but an attempt to do the same to the chamber commission during a heated session earlier this month failed through the party line. Most Republican commissioners voted to postpone the November 12 referendum, while most Democrat commissioners supported the failed attempt to extend the vote.
At the same time, the Senate committee meeting was heated as the public debated whether to view the draft map. Republican leader Mark Ellinger prefers not to draft the map. However, two maps drawn by Democrats, along with one from Susan Monty Ellinger, the party’s vice president, were released to the public. Because he released all three, even a map drawn by Republicans went online under Monti’s name, much to the frustration of some Democrats.
“I don’t think it’s transparency,” he said. I’m angry about all this, “said Michael Frame, a former state lawmaker and Democratic commissioner.
Ellinger told the Associated Press that confidentiality leads to better results and helps commission members reach the 70 percent constitutional threshold required to approve a map.
“It’s easier to negotiate if you can talk openly and study ideas without an outside voice criticizing the idea,” said Ellinger, a lawyer who used legal metaphors. “If you need to, it will be very difficult to resolve the lawsuit. The judge will hear the lawsuit before the jury.”
Unlike the official Missouri commission, a group of activists is posting the proposed map online, promising to reward the public with about $ 20,000 for the best model. At least 65 entries were received.
Sean Nicholson, coordinator of the Missouri Fair Maps Coalition and an adviser to the Democratic Party, said the goal is to “show everyone that this doesn’t have to be a secret process” and that there are many ways to do it. It will be a good map to achieve fair results that are respected by society. “
Squire, a political scientist at the University of Missouri, said disagreements between members of the Missouri redistribution commission were not conducive to reaching agreement on the map. If the members of the commission do not agree, the map shall be drawn by a panel of judges of the state appellate court.
Judges were required to draw a map of the Missouri Palace in 2011 and 2001. Judges were also required to draw a Senate map every ten years since the 1980s, but the 2011 map was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Following the court ruling, a second bipartisan commission was formed and in 2012 the redistribution of the Senate was completed.