This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 9, 2011 - The judicial commission in charge of redrawing Missouri's legislative districts quietly filed a revised state Senate map this afternoon that dramatically changes several districts in the western part of the state. The changes apparently reflected constitutional concerns raised by critics, regarding the original splits in several western counties.
The only change in the St. Louis area districts involved some slight revisions in Jefferson County, involving the 22nd and 27th state Senate districts.
Unannounced, the commission posted a news release Friday afternoon on the state's Office of Administration that states, in part:
"The Appellate Apportionment Commission has filed a revised state Senate redistricting plan and map with the secretary of state. The revised plan was filed within the 90-day period allowed by the constitution and replaces the plan filed on Nov. 30, 2011. A majority of the commission opted to revise the plan upon further consideration of a constitutional provision regarding multi-district counties, even though that provision may not apply to redistricting maps drawn by the appellate judges."
The commission's chair, Judge Lisa White Hardwick, said the release provided all the information about the commission's rationale. She did provide some technical details about which counties were affected by the changes.
The affected counties include Johnson, Cass, Clay, Ozark, Reynolds, Lafayette, Dallas and Greene counties. The latter is in the Springfield area, while the others are in central, southern or western Missouri.
When the six appellate judges unveiled new state legislative maps last week, a number of political experts and politicians raised questions, citing the state constitution's prohibition against splitting a county if it could be contained within one state Senate district.
Some of the notable changes include:
- Placing all of Johnson County in the 21st District. Before, that county was split between the 21st District and the 31st District. The new configuration means that Sen. David Pearce -- a Warrensburg Republican who currently represents the 31st District -- would have to run in the 21st District, especially since he told the Beacon he has no intention of moving.
- Including part of Lafayette County in the 8th District, currently represented by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit. Interestingly, Kraus' address was apparently drawn into the 10th District, now represented by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.
- Splitting Greene County and Clay County only twice. In the original redistricting map, those counties were split three times.
- Adding Ozark County into the 20th District and removing it from the 33rd Senate District, which incorporates a swath of counties in southern Missouri.
- Moving Dallas County in southwest Missouri from the 28th District to the 20th District.
- Shifting Reynolds County into the 33rd, and removing it from the 22nd.
- Making small changes to the way Jefferson County is divided between the 27th District and the 22nd District.
Unaffected was St. Charles County, which currently is split among three state Senate districts in the new map.
Republican consultant James Harris, an outspoken critic of Missouri's judicial selection process, contended Friday that the commission's unannounced changes demonstrates "a stunning display of incompetence'' by the panel of judges and its staff.
The changes don't affect the commission's map for the 163-member Missouri House. But House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, wants the panel to consider that idea.
"The Appellate Apportionment Commission did the right thing by acknowledging its blatant constitutional violations in drawing new Missouri Senate districts and taking prompt corrective action," Talboy said.
"The commission now should take the next step by also revising its redistricting plan for the House of Representatives. Although the House plan doesn't suffer from the same constitutional infirmities as the original Senate plan, the commission ignored natural geographic boundaries and divided communities in ways that produced House districts that, on the whole, make little sense. Missourians should not be stuck for the next decade with district boundaries that undermine representative democracy, and the commission should develop a workable House redistricting plan while it still has time."