The Republican-controlled Senate granted first-round approval Feb. 4 to a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to reverse state legislative redistricting reforms Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018 with the passage of Clean Missouri.
The Republican-backed amendment also would make it harder to challenge unconstitutional redistricting plans in court. A second vote was pending to forward the measure to the House of Representatives.
Republicans opposed the 2018 Clean Missouri amendment, and have been working to undo it since its passage.
Under the Clean Missouri redistricting system, state House and Senate districts are to be drawn by a non-partisan state demographer using constitutional criteria designed to maximize the number of competitive districts and ensure partisan fairness. The system is scheduled to be used in the 2021 redistricting cycle, and produce new districts to be used starting with the 2022 elections.
VERSION OF OLD SYSTEM
Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) would resort to a modified version of the old system that gave partisan commissions composed of Republican and Democratic party loyalists first crack at drawing new maps but kicked the job to a panel of six appellate judges if the partisan commissions failed to agree, which is what typically happened.
HARDER TO CHALLENGE
SJR 38 also includes a provision that would impose new hurdles to challenging unconstitutional redistricting plans. During the last redistricting cycle in 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the originally submitted Senate redistricting map as unconstitutional, requiring the process to start over. Under SJR 38, bringing such a challenge could prove more difficult.
SJR 38 also eliminates the traditional requirement that districts be based on the “total population of the state” and replaces it with an amorphous “one person, one vote” standard. Opponents argue this change is an attempt to exclude non-voters – children and adults who aren’t eligible to vote in Missouri for various reasons – from being counted for apportionment purposes and produce districts of unbalanced populations skewed to favor Republicans. Supporters, including the bill’s sponsor Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) have been coy about what this change is supposed to achieve.
SJR 38 would minimize the importance of competitiveness and partisan fairness in drawing new districts. If approved by both legislative chambers, the measure would go on the November 2020 statewide ballot for voter approval.