New Missouri congressional redistricting map survives lawsuits

Friday, February 3, 2012 | 4:07 p.m. CST; updated 8:17 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 4, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — A state trial judge upheld Missouri's congressional redistricting map Friday, rejecting arguments that the districts failed to meet state constitutional requirements.

Two separate lawsuits challenged the state's new congressional map, asserting the districts are not sufficiently compact. Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green rejected the argument in a ruling issued Friday.

Congressional districts are redrawn each decade based on the most recent census. Missouri is dropping from nine congressional districts to eight because its population growth since 2000 did not keep pace with other states. The Republican-controlled legislature enacted its redistricting map last year after overriding the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Missouri Constitution requires congressional districts be "composed of contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be."

Green said in his ruling that districts must be compact but are not required to be as compact as possible. He said he did not want a "never-ending game of one-upmanship in a constant search for the ultimate map."

One of the legal challenges focused largely on the Kansas City-area 5th District that covers much of Jackson County, along with several neighboring rural counties. A chunk of Jackson County was carved out and added to the 6th District that stretches across Missouri from Nebraska to Illinois.

The other legal challenge, funded by the National Democratic Redistricting Trust, objected to several districts. In addition to the Kansas City area, it pointed to the 3rd District, which runs from central Missouri to the St. Louis area, touching the Mississippi River. In addition, it also raised concerns about the west-central 4th District and the 7th District in southwestern Missouri.

Green's ruling came after a three-day hearing. It is the second time he has rejected the congressional redistricting challenges. He also denied the lawsuits' requests in December, but the Missouri Supreme Court ordered additional legal review last month.

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