Voters should pick politicians, not the other way around

By State Sen. Lauren Arthur

Every ten years, following the federal census, legislative maps must be redrawn to reflect changes and movement in population to ensure equal representation. Typically, states get this population data well in advance of the next election to prepare the legislative maps. However, due to COVID-19, census data took longer to collect, process, and distribute to the states.

Despite approving a non-partisan redistricting plan in the 2018 elections, Missouri voters approved GOP-passed changes to the process in 2020. The 2018 plan, known as “Clean Missouri,” would have had a non-partisan state demographer draw legislative districts for the General Assembly, with an emphasis on electoral competitiveness.

The 2020 plan returned the process to bipartisan citizen commissions. For state legislative maps, the House redistricting commission made some progress, but the Senate redistricting commission failed to find agreement. A panel of judges will take over the process to finalize state legislative lines.

The task of redrawing congressional districts falls to the General Assembly. Missouri currently has a congressional delegation of six Republicans and two Democrats.

Despite complete control of the redistricting process, Republicans are divided over how to draw the maps, with competing concerns about the number of Republicans elected, the threat of court challenges, and the long-term political risks. Some Republicans want to gerrymander lines so that 7 Republicans and 1 Democrat represent the state, while others want to maintain the status quo.

To allow candidates enough time to file for the August 2nd primary, a supermajority vote in both chambers must approve the maps. Due to resignations and a death in the House GOP caucus, Republicans no longer have the votes in the House to pass maps that would heavily favor their party.

A special session would remove this barrier, but Governor Parson has refused to call for a special session. Additionally, he has not requested special elections to fill the vacancies in the House. Legislation in the House creating the congressional districts passed out of committee, with lengthy and intense debate expected next week.

While this all has enormous implications on control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the focus should remain on fair representation for Missourians. I support reforming our redistricting process to ensure people pick their politicians, not the other way around.