Plan would gut constitutional requirements for fairness, transparency and independence in redistricting
By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – National anti-gerrymandering experts have joined Missouri reformers in condemning Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 38, one of five new proposals that would roll back redistricting reforms passed overwhelmingly by Missouri voters in 2018 — and put new language into the state constitution to allow lobbyists and political appointees to gerrymander maps in 2021.
In November 2018, Missourians overwhelmingly supported a new, fair redistricting process that took away the influence of lobbyists and insiders when crafting new legislative maps.
In its place, 1,469,093 voters approved a new system with checks and balances to create fairly divided districts where candidates will have to work hard to earn their votes, and lobbyists and political insiders will no longer be able rig the system.
SJR38, introduced by Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby), would:
- Overturn the will of 1.4 million Missourians who supported the Clean Missouri (Amendment 1).
- Allow lobbyists and partisan political appointees to rig maps for their own interests in secretive backrooms.
- Allow communities to be split up by political appointees
- Remove the nonpartisan independence added to the state’s map-drawing process.
- Dramatically weaken race equity standards.
Hegeman told a committee he wants to offer the public “another opportunity to weigh in on this monumental change that could affect Missouri for decades to come.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) says voters didn’t understand what they were doing when they approved Clean Missouri. Others have suggested voters were tricked into passing the amendment.
Reformers say nothing could be further from the truth.
VOTERS ‘WANT FAIR MAPS’
“Voters in every state senate district approved Clean Missouri because they want fair maps and a stronger voice in government,” said Louise Wilkerson, League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis co-president.
“The resolutions introduced in both houses would drop Amendment 1’s independent demographer, hide the data used for the final maps and set a weaker race equity standard,” Wilkerson said. “Instead of improving our redistricting process after the 2020 Census, SJR38 would give political parties more power and allow an unprecedented level of racial and political gerrymandering.”
‘A GIANT STEP BACKWARD’
“Whatever your opinion of the Clean Missouri initiative, SJR38 is a giant step backward,” said Justin Levit, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School. “It guts what the voters demanded; it puts the line-drawers back in the pockets of the politicians; it undermines protections for minority populations. And it adds constraints, but in the worst possible way, with artificial, abstract rules that only have teeth when they cut through the heart of real communities where real people live.”
WOULD MAKE REDISTRICTING MORE PARTISAN
“We can’t let a handful of politicians and lobbyists overturn the will of the people. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents came together in 2018 and voted for the nonpartisan redistricting reforms in Amendment 1 by an almost two-to-one margin,” said Rod Chapel, president of the NAACP Missouri State Conference.
“SJR38 would not just reverse the reforms 62 percent of voters supported, it would drag Missouri even further back with new tricks to make redistricting more partisan, more secretive, and more unfair than ever before, resulting in some of the worst gerrymandering in the nation,” he said.
“Missouri politicians continue to ignore the will of their voters,” said Chris Lamar, of the Campaign Legal Center. “This gerrymandering plan proposed by self-interested politicians would overturn the will of the people, making it harder to achieve the independent redistricting process voters sought when they passed Amendment 1.”
‘WOULD MOVE MISSOURI IN THE WRONG DIRECTION’
“SJR 38 would move Missouri in the wrong direction right before new districts are drawn in 2021. Like last year’s proposal, these changes would make the redistricting process easier to rig by removing independence and protections designed to deliver fairness,” said Yurij Rudensky, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “This isn’t reform because the public stands to gain nothing.”