Missouri legislature facing deadline to redraw congressional districts

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The Missouri General Assembly has until the end of the week to complete the process of redrawing the boundaries for the state’s eight congressional districts.

Late Monday night, the Missouri House approved a new map which will likely result in six Republican districts and two Democratic districts. The map now needs to be approved by the Missouri Senate before heading to Governor Mike Parson for signature.

Travis Crum has been watching the process. He’s an associate professor at Washington University’s School of Law.

“We’re kind of in the end game,” he said.

Crum said there’s a lot of frustration all around about how the process has dragged on and how there’s diminishing hope that the legislature will be able to reach an agreement.

“And if they fail to come to an agreement, you’re going to have to see a court, likely a federal court, come in and impose a new map,” said Crum.

The process was delayed for weeks because the conservative caucus in the state senate was pushing to change the map from 6 safely Republican and 2 safely Democratic-held congressional seats to a ratio of 7-to-1. Their efforts eventually failed.

State Representative Trish Gunby is running in the Democratic primary for a chance to challenge Republican incumbent Ann Wagner in the 2nd congressional district.

“The fact that two individuals can hold up this process for the whole state of Missouri, we are the last state in the country to put a map out there, that is not right. And that’s not good for Missourians,” Gunby said.

Redrawing the boundaries for the district held by Wagner has been another holdup. Crum said it’s become a more competitive district because suburban areas of the district have trended more Democratic recently. But reaching a consensus on how to redraw the boundaries to make it a safer district for Republicans has been difficult.

Paul Berry, III is challenging Wagner in the Republican primary. He filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the legislature from reverting to the current congressional boundaries if it fails to agree on a new map.

“The lawsuit seeks in invalidate the current congressional map, which was created on data from the 2010 census,” said Berry.

Gunby said the Missouri House had scheduled to take up the redistricting issue Monday. But she said there were several amendments to get to and house leadership limited the amount of time for debate to less than the standard 4 hours.

Both Gunby and Berry said it’s frustrating for candidates to effectively hit the campaign trail if they don’t know the boundaries of the elected office they’re seeking.

Ben Samuels, who is running against Gunby in the Democratic primary, released the following statement about the hold-up in redrawing the Congressional boundaries:

“This chaotic redistricting process shows just how much our system is failing Missouri voters. Politicians in Jefferson City have prioritized their own political ambitions over fair and balanced maps that benefit all Missourians. However, our message will remain the same no matter what the district looks like: Missouri needs a new leader in Congress who will bring good-paying jobs back to our community.”

It’s also frustrating for election officials who will have a tough job preparing for the August election as time ticks down.

“We’re going to have about a week to update all this and that is going to be a massive task to get it done. It’s going to require a lot of overtime, a lot of extra time but we’re going to have to do it,” said Kurt Bahr, the Director of Elections for St. Charles County.

St. Louis County is facing a similar challenge. The new map means these departments have to update the new voter information line by line. It could impact the start of absentee voting which starts June 21, according to Bahr.

“One of two things could happen. Either we will have to delay the printing of the ballot which could potentially delay the start of six-week absentee voting, That’s a very real possibility, or we could have actual problems with the ballot where a voter here in St. Charles County lives in the 2nd district but might be in my system as the 3rd congressional district,” he said.