Lawmakers make one last stab at redrawing Missouri’s congressional map
With just seven days remaining in the Missouri legislative session, lawmakers are making one last attempt to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts.
The process of overhauling the state’s congressional map has faltered over the past months over a variety of issues, including where to put the state’s military bases and how to revamp the St. Louis area's 2nd District. The filing deadline already passed, and candidates for Congress are unclear about which voters they should be courting.
On Wednesday, a House committee overseeing redistricting advanced a new proposal that makes several notable changes to plans that the House and Senate passed earlier in the session. The latest plan:
- Splits Jefferson County between the 3rd District and the 8th District. Before this week, the House placed Jefferson County entirely in the 3rd District — while the Senate put the fast-growing county in the 8th District.
- Adds portions of St. Louis, St. Charles and Warren counties — and all of Franklin County — to the 2nd Congressional District The House plan had the 2nd District with parts of St. Louis and St. Charles counties, while the Senate version matched parts of St. Louis and St. Charles counties with rural areas like St. Francois, Washington and Iron counties.
- Divides Boone, Phelps and Webster counties into different congressional districts. The proposal also places Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood in the 4th District.
Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Jefferson County, who chairs a House committee overseeing redistricting, said he’s hoping that the House passes this map Monday — and that the Senate is able to take up the proposal Wednesday. The session ends Friday.
“I think there’s motivation on both ends of the building on both sides of the aisle to be in control of what the map looks like,” Shaul said.
If lawmakers fail to come to an agreement, it is likely that federal judges will take over the job of redrawing the congressional map. Shaul said that he’d rather have legislators make that decision than the judiciary.
“We’re still working very hard to make sure that we provide [the Senate] with a viable solution,” Shaul said. “[The new plan] was crafted with the desire that it would survive a Senate vote.”
The new plan passed in Shaul’s committee without Democratic support. One member, Rep. Donna Baringer of St. Louis, said she, among other things, didn’t like how Boone County is split between two districts. She also is dismayed that the 2nd Congressional District, now represented by Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin, would be more out of reach for Democrats compared to a proposal that passed the House in January.
“They’re protecting the current Republican congressional person,” Baringer said. “So they’re making it harder for us to try to win any seats. That’s their job to make them strongly Republican. But when it comes to doing redistricting, the goal is to be congruent and make sure you’re not tearing communities apart.”
Shaul said he’s well aware that the legislature needs to act to prevent the possibility that election officials may miss key deadlines before the Aug. 2 primary election. That includes a May 24 deadline to set the primary ballot and a June deadline to send ballots to overseas military personnel.
Local election officials have said they are increasingly concerned that the impasse will make it confusing to candidates and voters.
“I don’t know what the legislature is thinking about when they’ve got candidates in their own legislature that are running for positions in their own congressional districts,” said Rick Stream, Republican elections director for St. Louis County. “It’s just going to make it even more of a mess and delay it even further.”
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