Voters will be asked to reconsider how state legislative districts are determined through Amendment 3 on the November ballot, after voting to approve Amendment 1 in 2018. Voters approved Amendment 1 with 62% of the vote.
Amendment 3 would return the state to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, created by the approval of Amendment 1 in 2018.
The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each. The amendment would also change the criteria used to draw district maps.
Included in the amendment are slight changes to the threshold of lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits for state senate campaigns. It would change the threshold of lobbyists' gifts from $5 to $0 and lower the campaign contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
Opponents of Amendment 3 contend it is an effort to undo the will of the people, using the issues of reducing lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits to detract from an effort to allow lobbyists and politicians to rig district maps.
A bipartisan group of leaders have come out in opposition to Amendment 3, including former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, former Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, as well as AARP Missouri, AFL-CIO Missouri, NAACP Missouri Conference, and Missouri NEA.
State Senator Mike Cierpiot (R – 30th District) and State Representative Jeff Coleman (R – 32nd District) both support Amendment 3.
“There are detractors who say that we are just trying to change to a method that would allow us to maintain our super majority. That is not the whole process here. We are trying to keep things the same so that we can continue to try to represent everyone instead of having districts carved up that are not representative of those communities,” Coleman said.
“Everything they (Amendment 3 opponents) say we are doing now is what they were trying to do with Amendment 1. They reduced lobbyist gifts down to $5. Why didn’t they reduce it down to zero? We are going back and trying to fix these things that should have been fixed the first time around.”
“Our caucus hired a demographer to draw district lines based on the priorities of the new law. The demographer said there’s no way to draw lines that way and create a district in the way in which the law states, which says the most important thing is to create a district that is competitive and as close to a 50/50 split as possible,” Coleman said.
Cierpiot also points to the weaknesses he sees in Amendment 1 as his reasoning for supporting Amendment 3.
“I support Amendment 3 to correct the weaknesses that passed in 2018. The old, original redistricting plans only moved forward if a bipartisan majority of a redistricting committee (14 of 20, 70% of 10 Democrats & 10 Republicans) voted for it, stopping partisan tampering. The new way turns that on its head and now it takes 14 of 20 to stop it. That means if the Democrats are happy and the Republicans are being hurt it goes into effect, or vice versa. If anyone questions the intent of those pushing this plan in 2018, ask yourself why they chose the auditor’s office to control it when other election responsibilities rest with the Secretary of State. I’m confident it was because they were quite certain the Auditor would be a Democrat,” Cierpiot said.
“There are many other parts of the 2018 amendment that are problematic. I haven’t found anyone that can say how it’s going to work with certainty. Compact and contiguous are now low on the list of descriptors for new districts where they were primary. In my view, communities of interest are what politics are all about. They must now be divided to align with the 2018 amendment.”
“And to satisfy the description of Non Partisan Demographer you have to be out of partisan politics for 4 years, meaning former Governor Nixon or former Senator Ashcroft qualify,” Cierpiot said.
Clean Missouri, the committee that sponsored Amendment 1 in 2018, is leading the campaign in opposition of the amendment. The committee maintains Amendment 3 is a last ditch effort to set up a process that will affect district maps through 2030. Opponents maintain the amendment is an effort to create unfair, noncompetitive districts to limit voters’ ability to hold leaders accountable, not count children and non-citizens, and create unprecedented restrictions on citizens’ abilities to challenge unfair maps in court.
The full resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 38) outlining details of the proposed amendment can be found at www.grainvalleynews.com.