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New Congressional Maps Come Before the Missouri Supreme Court

The new congressional districts came under fire Thursday, Jan. 12, as the Missouri Supreme Court considered a challenge to the new district lines.

The state’s high court heard oral arguments questioning the legality of the districts drawn last year by the Missouri General Assembly. The newly drawn map essentially eliminated the district currently held by US Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan after Missouri’s population grew at a slower rate compared to the rest of the nation.

The Missouri Constitution requires that congressional districts must be “composed of contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be.” Attorney Gerry Greiman represented those challenging the new map and told the Supreme Court the new districts are not “compact” and were drawn for the benefit of the Republican party.

“The deliberate skewing of the electoral playing field for partisan advantage is precisely what the plaintiffs allege here,” Greiman said.

But Solicitor General James Layton for the Attorney General, however, argued that politics does play a role in shaping congressional districts.

“It has always been about more than population and compactness,” Layton said.

Political priorities were not the only argument the Supreme Court heard. Layton defended the new districts and said there was no standard to define the “compact” districts required by the Constitution. Attorney Edward Greim represented the General Assembly in court and said the standards for districts the plaintiffs wanted were impossible.

The court also heard a legal challenge to the state Senate district maps that had been drawn by a panel of state appeals court judges.  The panel was appointed after the bi-partisan redistricting commission was unable to reach agreement.

The judicial panel filed two maps for the state Senate.  The first version split a few districts between counties in a fashion prohibited by the state Constitution.  So the panel withdrew that map and filed another one.  The case before the state Supreme Court challenges the authority of the panel to withdraw a map it already had filed.

The Supreme Court gave no indication as to when it would make a decision.  Feb. 28 is the first day for filing for August primary.