Missouri lawmakers adopt US House districts with GOP advantage

Finally breaking a deadlock, the Missouri Legislature gave final approval on Thursday to new congressional districts that are expected to continue the Republicans’ electoral advantage in a fickle former state that is increasingly red-leaning.

Missouri was one of the last states to pass new US House districts based on the 2020 census. That’s because the Republicans who control both legislative chambers spent much of their session arguing among themselves about the aggressiveness of pulling districts in their favor. and which communities to divide while balancing population across districts.

Facing a Friday 6 pm deadline to pass bills, the Senate voted 22-11 on Thursday night to pass a map passed earlier this week by the House. The Senate then closed its session, halting work on all other bills.

Redistricting legislation now goes to Republican Governor Mike Parson to become law.

Because the new districts took so long to get approved, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft warned that local election officials may not have enough time to accurately adjust everyone’s voting addresses before ballots are prepared for the 2/2 primaries. August. As a result, he said it is possible for some voters to receive the wrong ballots.

Democrats and Republicans in many states have tried to use the once-a-decade redistricting process to give their candidates the upper hand as they battle for control of the much-divided US House. But that didn’t work in all cases.

Courts in Florida, Kansas, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Ohio overturned maps they said were illegally drawn. Legal battles continue in many of these states. New Hampshire is the only state other than Missouri that has not enacted at least one redistricting plan.

Some Missouri Republicans had pushed for an aggressive gerrymander who would have split Democratic-leaning Kansas City and given the GOP a chance to win seven of the state’s eight seats in the US House. But GOP legislative leaders feared this could backfire by spreading their voters too thin, and ultimately opted for a plan that bolstered their strength in the six districts they currently hold.

“I think gerrymandering is wrong, no matter who does it,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said as he defended the approved map.

While he called it “a reasonably strong 6-2 map” for Republicans, Conservative Senator Bob Onder criticized colleagues for not adopting an even more partisan plan. While lawmakers in other states were playing “hardball” at redistricting, “we’re playing t-ball,” he said.

Missouri has only one congressional district that is relatively competitive – the 2nd District in suburban St. Louis, held by Republican Representative Ann Wagner. Republicans prioritized strengthening that district against Democratic gains.

The new plan strengthens the Republican vote share by 3 percentage points over current districts, according to an analysis by the legislative team that focused on the 2016-2020 election results.

Republican voting strength would be reduced by a similar margin in the 3rd District, which surrounds the St. Louis before extending westward to central Missouri. But the GOP would still have a considerable advantage there.

The redistricting plan also redesigns the 5th District to focus more narrowly on the Kansas City area — helping Democrats — rather than extending it to rural areas, as is currently the case.

Some lawmakers said there was no point in trying to mix Kansas City residents with rural voters.

“I think the map does a good job of balancing all of Missouri’s regions and their different views and interests across various congressional districts,” said Senator Mike Bernskoetter, chairman of the Senate redistricting committee.

One of the communities most affected by the redistricting plan would be Columbia, the fourth-largest city in the state and home to the University of Missouri. A dividing line running through the city center would change the university campus and the south side of the city to the 3rd District, while the northern portion would remain in the 4th District, which extends west to the Kansas border.

While some states began work on redistricting shortly after the Census Bureau released data last August, Missouri waited until its legislative session began in January. The House quickly passed a plan, but the Senate did not respond with its own version until March. The two chambers remained at odds as candidates ran for Congress without knowing the shape of their new districts. Several lawsuits have been filed seeking to compel action in new districts, although no court has yet intervened to order this.

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