Missouri legislatures take over U.S. House of Representatives districts with GOP advantage

Finally, the Missouri Legislature broke an impasse and on Thursday granted final approval for new congressional districts that are expected to continue the Republican electoral lead in a former swing state that is increasingly red-leaning.

Missouri was one of the last states to enact new US house districts based on the 2020 census. That’s because Republicans, who control both legislative houses, spent much of their session arguing among themselves over how aggressively to pull districts to their advantage and which wards to divide up while also spreading population among districts.

Faced with a 6 p.m. Friday deadline for passing bills, the Senate voted 22-11 Thursday night to approve a card passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week. As a result, the Senate ended its session and stopped work on all other bills.

Redistribution legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Parson to become law.

With the new districts taking so long to pass, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has warned that local electoral officials may not have enough time to accurately match everyone’s voting addresses before ballots are prepared for the Aug. 2 primary. As a result, he said it was possible some voters would be given the wrong ballots.

Democrats and Republicans in many states have tried to use the process of redistribution that takes place every decade to give their candidates an advantage as they fight for control of the tightly divided US House of Representatives. But that didn’t work in all cases.

Courts in Florida, Kansas, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Ohio overturned all maps they said were illegally drawn. In many of these states, litigation continues. Along with Missouri, New Hampshire is the only state that hasn’t enacted at least one redistribution plan.

Some Missouri Republicans had been pushing for an aggressive Gerrymander that would have sliced ​​up Democrat-leaning Kansas City and given the GOP a chance to win seven of the state’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But GOP lawmakers feared this could backfire by spreading their constituents too thinly and eventually settled on a plan that boosted their strength in the six wards they currently hold.

“I think gerrymandering is wrong no matter who is doing it,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said while defending the card, which passed.

Though he called it “a pretty strong 6-2 card” for Republicans, conservative Sen. Bob Onder criticized his peers for not adopting an even more partisan plan. While lawmakers in other states played “hardball” in redistributing districts, “we’re playing T-ball,” he said.

Missouri has only one congressional district that’s relatively competitive — the 2nd Circuit in suburban St. Louis, held by Republican Rep. Ann Wagner. Republicans made it a priority to protect this district against Democratic gains.

The new plan boosts Republican vote share there by 3 percentage points over current districts, according to an analysis by law enforcement officials that focused on the best election results from 2016-2020.

Republican voting strength would be reduced by a similar margin in the nearby 3rd District, which wraps around the St. Louis area before extending west into central Missouri. But the GOP would still have a significant advantage there.

The redistribution plan also redraws the 5th District to focus more closely on the Kansas City area — to help Democrats — rather than expanding into rural areas as it is currently doing.

Some lawmakers said it didn’t make sense to match Kansas City residents with rural voters.

“I believe the map does a good job of balancing all of Missouri’s regions and their different views and interests in different congressional districts,” said Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, chair of the Senate Committee on New Elections.

One of the communities hardest hit by the redistribution plan would be Columbia, the state’s fourth-largest city and home of the University of Missouri. A dividing line running through downtown would move the college campus and south side of the city to the 3rd Ward, while the northern portion would remain in the 4th Ward, extending west to the Kansas border.

Although some states began redistributing districts shortly after the Census Bureau released the data last August, Missouri waited until the beginning of its legislative session in January. The House quickly passed a plan, but the Senate didn’t counter with its own version until March. The two chambers remained at odds as candidates ran for Congress without knowing the shape of their new districts. Several lawsuits have been filed to compel action against new counties, although no court has yet stepped in to order it. Missouri legislatures take over U.S. House of Representatives districts with GOP advantage

Bobby Allyn

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