JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon rejected a proposed congressional redistricting map on Saturday and urged lawmakers to come up with a new plan that better represents "all regions of the state" within two weeks.
Nixon, a Democrat, said in his veto letter that the U.S. House map approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature last week "does not adequately protect the interests of all Missourians." He said he quickly made his decision to allow lawmakers time to try again before the legislative session ends May 13.
The redistricting legislation would have merged two Democratic congressmen into the same St. Louis district to help consolidate Missouri's nine current congressional districts into eight. Missouri lost a U.S. House seat after the 2010 census because the state's 7 percent population growth failed to keep pace with the rest of the nation. The new map also must account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.
Republican legislative leaders had urged Nixon to consider signing the map. Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said Saturday that he would like to attempt to override the veto but has not yet discussed it with other senators since Nixon rejected the map.
"We think it's a fair and equitable map," said Mayer, R-Dexter. "The boundaries are drawn in a way that the areas in the boundaries are pretty harmonious and have similar types of characteristics."
Lawmakers would need a two-thirds vote to override Nixon's veto. The Senate exceeded that margin when it approved the map last week. In the House, where a veto override attempt would begin, 13 legislators who didn't vote for the measure or voted against it would have to back it to override the veto. Six Republicans and three Democrats were absent and didn't vote on the map last week.
If lawmakers do not override the veto and do not develop an alternative that Nixon signs, Missouri's congressional districts are likely to be redrawn by the courts.
Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley said immediately after the redistricting map passed Wednesday night that he looked for lawmakers to attempt a veto override if the map were rejected. Tilley, R-Perryville, said last week that he hoped Nixon would sign the proposal rather than risk allowing the courts to draw new congressional boundaries.
Missouri House Minority Leader Mike Talboy said Saturday that the map was "slanted" and praised Nixon's rejection. Three Democrats voted for the redistricting map last week, and Talboy, D-Kansas City, said he was not aware of others who changed their minds and now support it.
Under the plan Nixon vetoed, the city of St. Louis would have been put entirely into the 1st Congressional District now held by Democrat William Lacy Clay. The city currently is split with the 3rd District represented by Democrat Russ Carnahan.
Carnahan's district would have been essentially eliminated and divided among Clay's district; the suburban St. Louis district held by Republican Todd Akin; an overhauled district held by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of central Missouri; and the southeastern Missouri seat held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson.
Jefferson County, near St. Louis, would have been split into the districts of Akin, Emerson and Luetkemeyer.
Carnahan said Saturday that Nixon's veto was a victory for Missourians because it offered an opportunity to draw a new map focused more on "respecting the needs and concerns of families and businesses than on consolidating political power."
"There is no question that the map that was vetoed today was a partisan gerrymander that would have been bad for the entire state of Missouri," Carnahan said. "It sliced and diced the St. Louis region — the economic engine of the state — dividing communities of interest and weakening Missouri's representation in Washington."
Elsewhere, the congressional map rejected Saturday would have extended the Kansas City district of Democrat Emanuel Cleaver farther east to pick up several rural counties while a swath of Jackson County would have been carved out and added to the district of Republican Sam Graves, whose district would have spread across the northern half of the state.
Southwest Missouri, currently represented by freshman Republican Billy Long, would see the least change, because its population grew faster than most regions of the state.