Gerrymandering is Alive and Well in Missouri

by Jim Higgins

One indication of how extensive gerrymandering has pervaded Missouri politics is by looking at the number of unopposed races in the legislature.   Of the 17-state senate district up for reelection in 2022 there are 5 which have only one major party in the race. That includes one candidate who will face a Libertarian opponent.   That is almost 30% of the races. 

Of the state representative races, a total of 94 out of 163 races will have only one major party which has filed.  That amount to 57% of the districts.  There are 28 state representative races with only Democrats running and 63 state representative races with only Republicans running.  Another 3 races have a Libertarian running against a Democrat with no Republicans and 2 races have a Libertarian running against a Republican with no Democrats and one race with a Constitution party  candidate running against a Republican with not Democrat.

Gerrymandering is an assault on our democracy..  Not only does it ensure “safe”  districts for the major parties, it renders voters ineffective in those districts by limiting their choices. This year less than half of all Missouri voters will be allowed to choose between opponents for state rep in the November general election.

In 2018 there was an attempt to fix this. Missouri Amendment #! known as the Clean Missouri initiative was passed by the voters. This introduced several political reforms.  One of them was to revamp the redistricting process.  The ballot initiative moved the power to draw state legislative districts away from state legislators and gave it to a non-partisan state demographer. It also established stronger more fair criteria for remapping districts.   Almost immediately, legislators began scheming to undermine this reform. In 2020 Legislators placed Amendment 3 on the November ballot and with some misleading wording was passed by the voters   Amendment 3 effectively  eliminated the nonpartisan state demographer and restored the use of a bipartisan redistricting commission appointed by the governor. It also loosened the criteria used to draw district maps. 

The current law allows only the two major parties to participate in the redistricting process, however Libertarians feel that since they have been an established party in Missouri for almost 30 years  that they should be involved also.  Libertarians fully understand that the major parties will not willingly agree with this and they are looking for ways for this to be taken up in court.  Libertarian Jeff Coleman from Chesterfield is leading this effort.  Coleman said “The process would be greatly improved if we were involved.  Who better to serve as mediator between the two major parties.  Districts should be regular and fair so that there are legitimate challenges across the board.  Legislatures should earn their right to govern through the election process not through the skewed drawing of legislative districts”.  At Libertarian state convention in February delegates voted to support Coleman’s efforts.

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