Missouri voters reverse course, restore partisan redistricting

Posted at 1:23 AM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 09:48:13-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two years after voters overwhelmingly passed “Clean Missouri” reforms, changes related to the state’s process for drawing legislative districts were rolled back Tuesday with the passage of Amendment 3.

Now, the way Missouri’s legislative districts are drawn could be altered significantly, leaving some concerned that partisan gerrymandering will only get worse in the state.

Gerrymandering is the practice of dividing election districts in unconventional ways to convey an unfair advantage to one political party, generally the Republican party since 2011.

Nearly 1.5 million Missouri residents voted for Amendment 1 — the Clean Missouri amendment — in 2018, which passed with more than 62% of the vote.

With all but 29 of the state's 3,692 precincts reporting, the vote was much closer Tuesday, but the old system has been restored with roughly 51% of the vote. The margin was a little more than 52,000 votes as the final few ballots were counted early Wednesday morning.

We are of course very disappointed that the politicians’ lies and deception appear to have been effective enough to pass Amendment 3. Thousands of volunteers from across the state and across the political spectrum have been working for years to pass and then defend fair redistricting rules in our constitution, and today we came up short.

Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring as fair an outcome as possible when new maps are drawn in 2021. Amendment 3 was written to allow for truly radical gerrymandering, but it does not require it. The broad, bipartisan coalition that passed the Clean Missouri Amendment will be active and engaged in the 2021 redistricting process to ensure that voters and communities come first in new maps, not politicians.
Statement from Clean Missouri campaign

The state constitutional amendment that passed in 2018 created an independent state demographer, who would have been responsible for drawing legislative district maps. It also outlined the criteria to be considered in redrawing districts and ensured the process was subject to public scrutiny.

The GOP-dominated Missouri legislature proposed Amendment 3 to overturn those requirements and restore the old redistricting system, which involved commissions of political appointees carving up legislative districts behind closed doors.

Missouri Farm Bureau was among the biggest supporters of Amendment 3:

The people of Missouri were loud and clear today in rejecting out-of-state meddling in our elections. Amendment 3 will continue to keep our communities whole in next year’s redistricting process. We were outspent more than 150-to-1, but this result shows that the power of grassroots politics can still overcome the influence of huge donors. We appreciate all of the support from the Missourians who joined us in this guerrilla campaign on behalf of the people of our state.
Blake Hurst, Missouri Farm Bureau president

With the amendment’s passage, that’s exactly how Missouri’s legislative districts will be drawn next year based on the results of the 2020 U.S. Census.

Two years ago, Clean Missouri essentially eliminated lobbyist gifts, capping them at $5; established campaign contribution limits for state legislative races; tightened restrictions on anonymous donations; and imposed a two-year waiting period on legislators transitioning to paid lobbyist jobs.

Amendment 3 included a few minor provisions — the elimination of all lobbyist gifts, a reduction of $5, along with a $100 reduction in campaign contribution limits for state senate races — but the primary aim was to maintain the status quo for redistricting and overturn the Clean Missouri mandates for an independent demographer.

The amendment’s original ballot language, certified by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, was deemed “misleading, unfair, and insufficient.” A judge required that it be rewritten.

Voters signed off on the new language, overturning Clean Missouri before it ever had a chance to impact the redistricting process and decided Tuesday to keep the old system in place.

Work will begin next year to draw new district boundaries once the 2020 Census numbers are final. Amendment 3 mandates that the governor will appoint a bi-partisan committee to decide the new boundaries and the new priority is creating districts that are geographically compact.

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