JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri senators are quickly trying to postpone the state's candidacy filing period for the 2012 elections because of lingering uncertainties about the boundaries for state Senate, House of Representatives and U.S. congressional districts.
The Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would delay filing by about a month, which would set the period to run from March 27 through April 24. Barring a change to Missouri law, it is currently scheduled to begin Feb. 28 and run through March 27.
Like other states, Missouri was required to redraw its legislative boundaries based on the population changes noted in the 2010 census.
The new U.S. House districts, reduced from nine to eight, were drawn by the Republican-led legislature last year and enacted when lawmakers overrode a veto of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. But the Missouri Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Thursday on two lawsuits arguing the new boundaries should be struck down because some districts were not drawn in a compact fashion.
The state Supreme Court also might end up hearing an appeal on a lawsuit challenging the boundaries, which were drawn last year by a special panel of six appellate judges, for the Missouri House of Representatives.
The high court already has struck down the new boundaries for the Missouri Senate; it ruled that a special judicial panel violated the state constitution by splitting some counties among multiple districts. As a result, the Senate redistricting process had to start from scratch. The governor has appointed a bipartisan commission that is scheduled to hold its first meeting Saturday and gather public comments at subsequent hearings. If the commission cannot agree on boundaries for new Senate districts, the job would again fall to a special panel of appellate judges. Either way, it appears the task can't be finished before the scheduled Feb. 28 beginning of candidacy filing.
State Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, is sponsoring the bill delaying the start of filing until March 27.
"Hopefully the commission can get a map done by that point," he said on Wednesday.
Senators overwhelmingly rejected an amendment by Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, that would have delayed the filing period for only the state House and Senate districts. Rupp is running for secretary of state.
The Senate was expected to give second-round approval Thursday to the legislation delaying the filing period. It would then have to be passed by the House and signed by Nixon before Feb. 28.
House Speaker Steve Tilley said last week that the need to delay the start of candidate filing seems to be a more pressing issue for the Senate. However, he said House Republicans were willing to consider the legislation.
"If the Senate comes to the House and says, 'You know, we'd like to push back the filing date in regards to Senate districts,' I think it's something we would certainly work with them on," said Tilley, R-Perryville.