Mo. Supreme Court to hear arguments on state House maps

Feb 27, 2012

Missouri's Supreme Court judges will hear arguments this afternoon in a legal challenge to the new districts for the state House of Representatives.

The suit argues that the new map, which was drawn by a judicial commission, creates districts that are not as compact and equal in population as they should be.

Some districts vary by as much as 1,400 people, said plaintiff Joan Bray, a former Democratic state Senator.

"And there are six districts who are divided by rivers with no bridges," Bray said. "Our interpretation of case law is that you should be able to travel around the district without going out of the district."

It's the third redistricting case the high court will hear this year. It's thrown out maps for the state Senate, and is considering a challenge to the new Congressional districts.

Legal challenges aren't uncommon, says University of Missouri-St. Louis political science professor David Kimball. But a "perfect" map is impossible.

"There are these different criteria they're trying to satisfy - equal population, and contiguous, and having compact districts, and if possible trying to keep county or municipal boundaries together," Kimball said. "And then on top of that, if a legislature or parties are drawing it, they want to draw a map that favors their party and hurts the other party."

Kimball says both sides have solid arguments, and he cannot predict the way the Supreme Court will rule. Bray says if the judges stick with principles they laid out in asking for further review of the Congressional maps, the plaintiffs will prevail.