Missouri Republicans divided over reshuffle of state Senate districts


Jefferson City, MO. (AP) – Missouri’s high court weighed in on Thursday’s debate over whether to force changes to state Senate districts that have left the majority=party on how to implement new voter-approved redistricting criteria. Republicans have been divided.

The lawsuit brought by voters argues that the Senate districts in suburban St. Louis and western Missouri’s Buchanan County violate the state constitution by unnecessarily dividing cities or counties into multiple districts. It calls for revised districts before this year’s elections.

Missouri is one of a dozen states where legal challenges are still pending against congressional or state legislative boundaries that were redrawn based on the 2020 census. In many states, those fights have pitted Democrats against Republicans as each party pushes to shape districts to its advantage.

But the Missouri lawsuit has divided Republicans into two camps. A Republican Senate committee supports the map Enacted in 2022 by A panel of judges of the Court of Appeal, But the GOP House committee sided with Democratic-aligned voters who sued to overturn the districts

Each side presents its best viewpoint Discourages gerrymandering, in which map makers manipulate boundaries to benefit a particular political party, ethnic group or sitting MP. The outcome of the case will not immediately affect control of the Senate, where Republicans hold a 24-10 majority over Democrats.

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“But what it will do is affect the next redistricting and how we do it” after the 2030 census by establishing which criteria are most important, plaintiffs’ attorney Chuck Hatfield said after arguments Thursday.

At issue are the revised redistricting criteria approved by voters. 2020 ballot measure, The first criterion states that the population of districts should be approximately equal in practice, but “if it is necessary to follow political subdivision lines” such as counties and cities, there may be a deviation of up to 3%.

The second criteria requires compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, the third gives priority to “contiguous” and “contiguous” districts, and the fourth requires that communities be drawn as a whole if possible under uniform population guidelines. Should be kept in the districts.

The lawsuit argues that dividing Buchanan County into two districts represented by Republicans and the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood into two districts represented by Democrats was unconstitutional. a trial judge rejected that claim In September, the decision on the map was appropriate because the Constitution gives more priority to compact districts than intact communities.

But Hatfield argued to the Supreme Court justices that it was more important to keep counties and cities intact than to create compact districts. Otherwise, it would “enable efforts to gerrymander state legislative districts for nefarious political purposes” by dividing communities, Hatfield wrote in a court brief.

The state Attorney General’s Office defended the current Senate map. Deputy Solicitor General Maria Lanahan told the judges that several other Senate districts – although not challenged by the plaintiffs – also divided counties without following political subdivision lines. He said the plaintiffs were suggesting a standard that would be especially difficult to comply with in densely populated counties.

Ahead of Thursday’s arguments, the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee filed a court brief supporting the appeal. It claimed that the community divisions in the Senate map are “wholly unnecessary” and that the House map – which avoids such divisions – could be open to lawsuits if the court prioritized compactness.

The Republicans’ Missouri Senate Campaign Committee countered with its own court brief, arguing that House Republicans “are aligned with Democratic interests” and that individual representatives “may have a personal interest in drawing Senate districts. in which they hope to move in the future.”

Senate Republicans stressed that the current map avoids partisan manipulation that could occur if communities are overemphasized.

“The narrow, contiguous zone is the first and most powerful line of defense against political and racial gerrymandering,” Senate Republicans wrote in a brief filed by attorney Eddie Grimm.

Copyright 2024 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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