JEFFERSON CITY — In 2018, 62% of Missourians voted for the Clean Missouri amendment that put the job of redrawing state legislative districts in the hands of a nonpartisan state demographer.
Now, Republican lawmakers want to repeal the amendment by bringing the issue back to the polls in the fall.
The Senate gave initial approval Tuesday evening to SJR 38, a constitutional amendment that would give the mapping power back to bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor.
The proposal, by Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, also would change the priorities of factors that are considered during the redistricting process.
“We would like to go back to a bipartisan commission that will emphasize compactness and keeping communities of interest together over other aspects,” Hegeman said.
Democratic lawmakers called the new plan “Dirty Missouri.” They said downgrading the criteria of “competitiveness” and partisan “fairness” would take away the ability to have competitive elections.
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said the Republicans’ proposal was “undermining what the people already voted for.”
But after several hours of filibustering, the Democrats said they had made their point and would stop talking and allow a vote.
“They have the votes to stop debate, so at some point, you have to point out major flaws in the bill and continue to oppose it throughout the session,” said Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. “We think it’s important that elections are competitive and fair. It still speaks volumes that that is at the bottom of their list in terms of priorities.”
Supporters of the group that got Clean Missouri on the ballot criticized the proposed revisions.
“We can’t let a handful of politicians and lobbyists overturn the will of the people,” Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP State Conference, said in a news release.
The proposed revision of Clean Missouri deals with more than redistricting, though that was the focus of the debate. The plan also would ban lobbyist gifts to legislators, instead of allowing for $5 gifts, as is the case now. It would lower the limit for campaign donations to senators by $100.
The proposal still needs another vote in the Senate. If approved by the House, it is expected to be on the November ballot.
Supervising editor is Virginia Young.