Judicial panel draws new maps for Missouri Senate

Friday, December 9, 2011 | 7:40 p.m. CST; updated 6:15 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 26, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — A special judicial panel revised its redistricting plan for the Missouri Senate on Friday after concerns were raised about the original map developed by the commission.

Many of the changes focused on counties that previously were cut by multiple Senate districts, which had been a main criticism of the original map. The state constitution says Senate district lines shall not cross a county except when necessary to add people to a nearby district because the neighboring county has too many people to fit into a single Senate district.

The judicial panel's original map split Johnson County near Kansas City between two Senate districts and Cass County was spread among three. Greene County in southwestern Missouri was carved into three districts. Under the map released Friday, Johnson County and Cass County each fall within one Senate district. Greene County is split among two districts.

The new map splits Lafayette County between the 21st Senate District in west-central Missouri and the 8th Senate District that spreads out of eastern Jackson County.

The Appellate Apportionment Commission said it filed a new map after further consideration of a constitutional provision for multi-district counties. However, the commission said that provision may not apply when appeals judges handle redistricting. The rationale behind the commission's decisions has not been entirely clear because the judges developed their maps and deliberated behind closed doors after accepting public testimony for one day in October.

Missouri's new Senate districts will be effective for the 2012 elections. Candidate filing for the August political party primaries runs from Feb. 28 through March 27, and the winners will face off in November.

State legislative districts are redrawn each decade after the census. Missouri's population grew by about 7 percent, but the growth was not equally distributed. The southwestern corner of the state and the outer St. Louis suburbs grew while St. Louis County and city of St. Louis each lost population since 2000.

The panel of six appeals court judges was responsible for drawing the new districts for the 34-member Senate because a state redistricting commission with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats deadlocked this summer.

Four of the six judges on the panel signed the new map, which officials said made changes to 12 Senate districts.

The judicial commission said its new Senate map kept four districts with a black majority.

The new districts range in size from a population of 169,321 in 27th District in the St. Louis-area up to 183,051 in northwestern Missouri's 12th District. That is a slightly larger population deviation than was in their previous map.

From a partisan perspective, the revised map did not appear to change the number of districts favoring a particular political party. According to an analysis released with the new maps, GOP-inclined voters are the majority in 23 Senate districts compared to 11 for Democrats. The voting-trend analysis was based upon results from federal and state elections from 2002 to 2010.

Republicans currently hold a 26-8 majority over Democrats in the state Senate. 

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