A decision earlier this week by the Missouri Supreme Court means Missouri has to scramble to redo its redistricting plan for the state Senate districts in time for filing for the primary election.
“There were definitely issues with the new district maps, and I’m glad the court recognized this,” State Sen. Kevin Engler, D-Farmington, said. “Now, the governor will have to appoint a new public commission to start the redistricting process all over again. This is all unprecedented and has left a fair amount of confusion. Political candidates don’t know where they’ll be running, and citizens don’t know who represents them or what district they’ll fall in.
“It’s chaos and there’s little to do now but wait and see.”
State Rep. Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre, said she does not see how the redistricting could be completed in time for the Feb. 28 opening date for filing for the legislative elections.
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The court consolidated two of the three lawsuits it received that challenged the new redistricting plans. Redistricting was required for U.S. and state legislative districts based on Missouri’s recent census results. Missouri had nine U.S. congressional districts, but has to drop to one because its population growth did not keep up with growth in other states.
Two cases on appeal from Cole County — Kenneth Pearson et al. v. Chris Koster et al. and McClatchey et al. v. Robin Carnahan — were argued separately before the Supreme Court on Sept. 12 but were consolidated for the court’s Sept. 17 decision.
Plaintiffs in those cases challenged the constitutionality of the districts drawn for the U.S. House of Representatives because they were not drawn as compact as they should have been, particularly in House districts three and five. The Supreme Court reversed that issue, saying that constitutional law requires that districts “shall be composed of contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be.”
According to a map filed in the case, District 5 included parts of Jackson and Clay counties and Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties. District 3 included parts of Miller, St. Charles and St. Louis counties along with Maries, Cole, Osage, Callaway, Montgomery, Gasconade, Franklin, Warren and Lincoln counties.
The Supreme Court sent the cases back to the appellate court for reconsideration and a judgment by Feb. 3. That should give the General Assembly time to redistrict the state before the 2012 elections, the court determined.
In the third case, Molly Teichman filed a petition to prevent an election based on either the first or the second redistricting plan for the state’s senate districts.
A nonpartisan senate reapportionment commission formed after census figures were announced had six months to file a redistricting plan with the Missouri secretary of state. When the 10-member commission failed to meet the Sept. 18 deadline, the Supreme Court appointed six appellate judges to serve on the commission, with a directive to file an apportionment map within 90 days.
On Nov. 30, the reapportionment commission filed a plan and map to establish boundaries of the new districts. On Dec. 9, the commission withdrew its first plan and filed a revised plan. The commission said it had “opted to revise the plan upon further consideration of a constitutional provision requiring multi-district counties, even though that provision may not apply to redistricting maps drawn by the appellate judges.”
That provision says the senatorial districts must divide the population of the state by the number 34 and must establish the districts so that the population is as equal as possible.
It also says, “…no county lines shall be crossed except when necessary to add sufficient population to a multi-district county or city to complete only one district which lies partly within such multi-district county or city so as to be as nearly equal as practical in population.”
A multi-district county is one with a population of more than the quotient resulting from the total number of the state’s population divided by 12. In Missouri, that means the county population would be approximately 500,000 or more.
The Supreme Court ruled that the plan violated the constitution because it divided Jackson and Greene counties into too many state senate districts. The court also ruled that the commission went beyond its authority when it replaced the first map with a new one that included fewer county lines.
The decision means that the state has to start over with the senate redistricting process. Meanwhile, filing for the next legislative elections opens Feb. 28.
The governor has sent letters to the two major state political party committees asking for names of 10 candidates for appointment to the bi-partisan apportionment commission
He will select five citizens from each of the lists to serve on the commission. They, too, will have a deadline to meet. Failure to submit a plan on time will result in the Supreme Court again appointing a special commission.
Seven members must agree on a map before it may be filed.
Black doubts the process will be accomplished in time for filing.
“The parties have 60 days to respond, after which the governor has 30 days to select 10 commissioners, five from each party, from among the nominees,” she said. “Once the commission is established, it has six months to develop new Senate districts. If the new commission fails, the job would again pass to another appellate commission, which would have up to 90 days to complete its work.
“The constitution provides no guidance as to what would happen if candidate filing opens and valid Senate districts aren’t yet established.”
Speaker of the House Speaker Steven Tilley told the Associated Press on Tuesday that lawmakers could delay when candidate filing starts.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.