The way Missouri draws its state House and Senate districts will be up for referendum later this year after the House Wednesday backed a ballot initiative aimed at repealing the so-called Clean Missouri redistricting system.
It’s a move that could greatly increase the power of appellate judges to draw state legislative districts — and make compactness a bigger priority in mapmaking than competitiveness and partisan fairness.
But most of the speakers on Wednesday focused on a provision in Hegeman’s ballot item that counts population based on eligible voters as opposed to total population — a move lawmakers like Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Clay County, said could leave children out when adding up the amount of people that live in certain areas.
“To go from total population to only voters … undoes 231 years of the way it has always been done in the United States of America,” Carpenter said. “This is a radical and fundamental change to the democratic process in this country.”
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, also pointed out that the measure does away with language aimed at encouraging racial groups to join together in creating “coalition districts.”
“There’s a lot of research out there that shows minority communities often, when collectively put together, vote in different ways than majority communities,” Merideth said. “So this protection was put in place to make sure we don’t have lines drawn intentionally in a way that limits those communities’ impact on the process.”
But Democratic Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, of University City, voted for Hegeman’s resolution. She’s argued for several years that the language in the Clean Missouri redistricting system is not strong enough to prevent majority-black districts from becoming more white.