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Missouri senators finally reach compromise on redistricting

Missouri pushes for tougher penalties after 'swatting' death
Posted at 3:22 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 16:22:50-04

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri senators on Thursday approved a plan to redraw the state's congressional districts following months of tense Republican infighting, giving the House just hours to finish work on new maps before the Tuesday candidate filing deadline.

The Senate passed its plan by a bipartisan 22-10 vote, with 17 Republicans and five Democrats supporting it.

Republican senators fought for months over exactly how much to gerrymander the maps in their party's favor, with some pushing to split the heavily Democratic Kansas City area to give the GOP a shot at winning seven of the state's congressional seats. The plan ultimately passed by the Senate did not do that but is projected to maintain Republicans' hold on six of the state's eight U.S. House seats.

Five Republicans and five Democrats voted against the final Senate plan. All but two of the GOP conservatives who had pushed for a more favorable Republican gerrymander - Sens. Mike Moon and Bob Onder - ended up voting for the compromise.

"Balancing all the interests in this chamber has certainly been a challenge," said Sen. Andrew Koenig, a conservative caucus member who served as a go-between with the chamber's GOP leadership in drafting the final version.

He added: "I don't know anybody who's getting 100% of what they want."

Moon said during debate Thursday that he was disappointed some colleagues weren't pushing for a more partisan approach. He noted that Democrats who control legislatures in New York, Illinois and elsewhere had gerrymandered new districts to their advantage, along with Republican-led states such as neighboring Tennessee.

"We have supermajorities in both chambers, yet we don't take strong action," Moon said.

Negotiators worked overnight Thursday to reach a deal, which included slightly strengthening the GOP advantage in the most competitive district - the St. Louis-area 2nd District held by GOP Rep. Ann Wagner.

The Senate map also keeps both of Missouri's main military bases in the 4th District, a key demand of conservative caucus member Sen. Denny Hoskins.

Hanging over the debate was the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for Missouri candidates to officially sign up to run for U.S. Congress. Congressional candidates began filing for office last month without knowing final district boundaries.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said several senators left the Capitol to travel out of state Thursday afternoon, adding to the pressure to come to an agreement. And Rowden said waiting to pass a plan Monday wouldn't have given the House enough time to give the proposal final approval before candidates' filing deadline.

House lawmakers face a tight turnaround as is. The House is not scheduled to reconvene until 4 p.m. Monday - leaving no more than about 24 hours for candidates to potentially alter their plans, if the House gives final approval to the map.

The Senate version makes some significant boundary changes to the proposed map passed earlier this year by the House.

Whereas the House map concentrates the 2nd District in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, the Senate version stretches it south to include parts of Franklin County and rural Washington and St. Francois counties.

The Senate map also splits Columbia and its home of Boone County, dividing the liberal-leaning city between the 3rd and 4th districts, which trend more rural and conservative.

The Senate plan also puts Jefferson County, south of St. Louis, in southeastern Missouri's 8th District instead of the 3rd District as in the House version. The two versions also have different splits of the Kansas City suburbs in eastern Jackson County.

Rowden said passing the Senate proposal required balancing "34 interests, 34 unique positions, (and) 34 different ideas" from each of the senators about the future population makeup of the state's congressional districts.

"It truly was a whack-a-mole," Rowden said.