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House Dems proposed new district-drawing system for MO


Jefferson City, MO – Democrats in the Missouri House on Monday unveiled a proposal they say would remove political considerations from the drawing of legislative districts.

Representative Rachel Storch, of St. Louis, says districts too often are created to protect incumbents and political interests. She held up a map of her own oddly shaped district during a press event Monday, adding that gerrymandering invites political polarization.

But Paul Sloca, a spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party, says Democrats controlled the governor's office and the Legislature when legislative districts were last redrawn in 2000, but didn't propose their plan then.

"You can improve any system even one that's been successful for both Democrats and Republicans but the trouble is not the idea but the motivation behind it," Sloca said.

The plan is modeled after one used in Iowa; it would leave it to the state Demographic and Statistical Unit within the Office of Administration to draw state House and Senate districts as well as congressional borders.

State demographers would be forced to base their decisions on geography and population, while keeping municipalities and counties intact where possible. Where incumbents live, political affiliations of registered voters, previous elections and most other demographic information could not be considered.

Districts are redrawn after each federal census, which occurs with the change of each decade. In Missouri, the Legislature draws the lines for congressional districts and special partisan commissions have first crack at state House and Senate seats. In 2001, the last time seats were redrawn, no agreement could be reached, forcing a panel of appellate judges to decide the state legislative districts.

House Republicans now hold a 92-71 advantage over Democrats and control the Senate and Governor's Mansion.

The next round of redistricting is in 2011, but Democratic supporters of the new proposal say lawmakers should consider overhauling the system this session because it would require voter approval in 2008.

House Democrats also promoted proposals to bar lawmakers from working as lobbyists; prevent political appointees from giving money to elected officials once they have been confirmed; require state driver's license fee offices to be competitively bid; and ban elected officials' employees from also working for a political party or campaign.

The sponsor of the appointee provision, Rep. Beth Low, D-Kansas City, said it's important that Missourians are tapped to serve in the executive branch because of their qualifications and not their generosity to the governor.

Sloca said Democrats once again had targeted issues that they chose not to address while they were in power.


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