Redistricting – Past, Present & Proposed:Amendment 3 isn’t a straight repeal of the Clean Missouri bill passed in 2018

                                                                                                                                         by Michael Boyink/[email protected]

On next week’s ballot is Amendment 3, either nicknamed “Dirty Missouri” or “Cleaner Missouri” depending on how you feel about it. 

While the bill has a number of different issues on it, the meat of the language is around the issue of districting (the process of dividing the state into districts for voting). 

I won’t claim to be a political expert. This article is nothing more than a result of my own efforts to understand what I was being asked to vote on. 

I’m not going to recommend how you vote, I only  wanted to help explain the redistricting process we have vs. the one that is being proposed.

Let’s look at three states of redistricting in Missouri – past, present, and proposed.

Past (prior to 2018)

28-member committee (18 house, 10 senate) who were appointed by the governor drew the maps.

70% of the commissioners had to approve the maps to adopt them.

In creating the maps, the committee considered population, other subdivisions, and contiguous districts.

Present (Voted into Law in 2018)

Billed as the “Clean Missouri” act, this is the districting process voted into law in 2018.

Maps are created by one person. “Non-partisan state demographer appointed, selected in a bipartisan manner.”

That one person will be selected in a process that starts with the State Auditor, but needs approval from other legislators. “The state auditor will develop an application listing necessary qualifications to serve as the non-partisan state demographer. The state auditor will initiate an open application process and will review applications for qualified individuals. The state auditor will provide a list of at least three applicants to the majority leader and minority leader of the senate. If the majority leader and minority leader of the senate can agree on an applicant, that applicant will be selected as the non-partisan state demographer. If they are unable to agree on an applicant, each leader will be able to remove up to one-third of applicants. The state auditor will randomly choose from the remaining applicants to serve as the non-partisan state demographer.”

The demographer operates under overarching guidelines. The demographer is required to draw districts that are “designed in a manner that achieves both partisan fairness and, secondarily, competitiveness.” 

In addition, the Demographer must follow these rules for drawing maps:

Redistricting must be based on total population

Compliance with the United States Constitution and federal law

Districts may not be drawn with the intent or result of negatively impacting racial minorities

Districts will be drawn to achieve partisan fairness and secondarily, competitiveness

Contiguity (making sure all parts of the district are connected)

Respecting county, municipal, and township boundaries

Compactness (keeping district lines close to its center)

We – the public – get a chance to comment on the proposed maps. “After the non-partisan state demographer proposes a legislative redistricting plan, the commission will hold a minimum of three public hearings where the public will be able to comment on the proposed plan.”

Other elected officials get a chance to influence the maps, but maps are adopted by default unless voted against. “The existing bipartisan politician commission may make changes to the proposed plan with a 70% vote of approval. If no changes are made, the plan is approved.”

Competitive districts are encouraged. “The percent of wasted votes (any votes cast for a losing candidates and as any votes cast for a winning candidate past the 50 percent threshold) should be 0.

No limits to who could legally challenge a map, what part of the map can be challenged, or where the challenge can occur. “Amendment 1 did not limit who would have standing to file a legal challenge against the redistricting plan drafted by the non-partisan demographer and did not limit the judge from ordering the whole redistricting plan to be redrawn.”

Proposed (As Amendment 3, on the ballot next week)

Single demographer eliminated in favor of a bipartisan committee. “Amendment 3 would return the state to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, which was created by the approval of Amendment 1 (2018).”

The committee would now have 40 people. “The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each.” 

The priorities are different. “Population, voter rights abridgment, contiguous districts, and simple shapes are given higher priority than partisan fairness and competitiveness.”

Maps are not approved by default. “Maps need a 70% vote to be approved.”

The wasted vote percentage is higher. The percent of wasted votes calculated to determine partisan fairness and competitiveness cannot be greater than 15%.

Limits on who can challenge a map, what part of the map they can challenge, and  where legal challenges can occur. “Amendment 3 allows eligible Missouri voters to challenge the redistricting plan if the individual sustains an injury from residing in a district drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Missouri Constitution, or federal or state law that would be remedied with a differently drawn district. Legal challenges to redistricting plans would be required to be filed in the circuit court of Cole County. If the court rules that there is a violation, the ruling would be able to adjust only the districts or district boundaries that would make the redistricting plan compliant.”

Key Findings

Here are the key things I learned in my research:

The current Amendment 3 is not a straight repeal of the 2018 Amendment 1. It’s a 3rd take on districting with some unique aspects to it.

The current process does not let one person dictate the maps. It has steps for input from both other legislators and the public.

The proposed process also allows for public input.

The current process counts total population, while the proposed process counts registered voters.

Ballot Language

Looks like the ballot language is clear this election. Voting Yes replaces the present system with the proposed. Voting No keeps the present system.

Sources

ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Amendment_3,_Redistricting_Process_and_Criteria,_Lobbying,_and_Campaign_Finance_Amendment_(2020)

commoncause.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Missouri-AmicusBrief.pdf

cleanmissouri.org/

themissouritimes.com/missouri-to-vote-on-term-limits-and-cleaner-missouri-what-to-know-about-2020-ballot-measures/

columbiamissourian.com/news/elections/amendment-3-would-undo-clean-missouri-redistricting-changes/article_2bf53fcc-0cca-11eb-9e9e-53adc15e4d07.html

columbiamissourian.com/news/elections/redistricting-explained-a-look-at-the-clean-missouri-amendment/article_afab20ca-d798-11e8-8607-4322007efb62.html

brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/how-amendment-3-would-undo-missouri-redistricting-reforms