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St. Louis aldermen tweak redistricting map, plan a final vote for Tuesday

Updated Dec. 10 with aldermen delaying final vote

The St. Louis Board of Alderman did not hold a final vote Friday as expected on a new redistricting map that reduces the number of wards in the city from 28 to 14. Instead, the board adopted a few last-minute changes to the map and now is expected to take a final vote Tuesday.

The changes include adjustments to two newly created downtown wards in order to keep a soccer stadium under construction within one ward, rather than having it broken up among two, and also to place the Enterprise Center in the other ward.

“Now both facilities would have equal representation,” said Board President Lewis Reed.

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Original story from Dec. 8:

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted nearly unanimously Wednesday to give initial approval to a map that reduces its ranks by half.

“This board has been extraordinary through this process,” President Lewis Reed said at the conclusion of the vote. “You guys just voted almost unanimously to adopt a map that in all likelihood is going to end up with half of you losing your positions.”

The map passed on a voice vote with one alderman abstaining and one voting present.

In fact, the most controversy came as the board tried to number the wards. Because of a 2012 charter change, the redistricting process this year took the number of wards from 28 to 14. Every alderman will have to run in 2023 — odd-numbered wards for two-year terms and even-numbered wards for four-year terms. To keep board members from knowing whether they would have to run twice in two years, the draft map used letters. A coin flip was determined to be the most random and fair process, but it took almost an hour to complete because of a dispute over whether all the aldermen could clearly see the result of the first coin flip on the virtual meeting and how to resolve that dispute.

“I never in my life thought I was going to argue this long about a coin toss,” said 24th Ward Alderman Bret Narayan about 55 minutes in.

A proposal on the April ballot would move the redistricting process out of the hands of the aldermen entirely, including the map given initial approval on Wednesday. While 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice did not explicitly endorse that measure, or vote against the draft, she said she hoped for a different process in the future.

“This is a huge determination of the future for our city, and I continue to support, and hopefully can support as we move forward changing this process for more specific citizen input with our input as representatives,” she said.

In addition to meeting legal requirements such as wards that were compact, mostly equal in population and protected the voting power of minorities, aldermen wanted to keep as many of the city’s 79 neighborhoods intact as possible.

Tenth Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer, who chaired the committee that drafted the map, said more than 80% of the neighborhoods will be represented by one alderman with the new map. The remaining will have two representatives, as opposed to the current map that splits some neighborhoods among five aldermen.

The map needs one more vote, expected Friday, to get to the desk of Mayor Tishaura Jones. A spokesman said Wednesday the mayor did not yet have a comment.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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