PERSPECTIVE: Redistricting process approaches

The uncertain future of Missouri's nine congressional seats still continues as we head closer to the redistricting process.

The outcome now depends on the return rate of census forms and door to door visits. Every decade the federal government conducts a nationwide census. Based on these numbers congressional seats are apportioned among the states and district lines are decided.

This reapportionment also coincides with redrawing district lines for the state Legislature and county commissions. The objective is for the population in political districts to be as equal as possible.

Prior to 1964, the number of citizens in a district varied greatly. In the Missouri House of Representatives every county had a representative. Additional representatives were elected from larger counties. The result was a large disparity in the number of constituents represented by each legislator.

In 1964, two cases were decided by the United States Supreme Court which had the effect of bringing consistency to both congressional and state legislative districts.

In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled the populations of State House and Senate districts must be as equal as possible.

In Wesberry v. Sanders, this concept was extended to congressional districts. As a side note, the United States Constitution specifically grants two senators to each state. These individuals represent states which vary widely in population.

There are 435 seats in the United States Congress. Based on population trends over the previous decade there has been concern Missouri would lose one of its nine seats.

A strong effort was expended to count every person in the state. For a while it appeared as though Missouri would definitely keep all nine seats. Now, a new study indicates Minnesota may retain the final available seat based simply on a better rate of surveys returned.

Regardless of whether Missouri has nine or eight seats, redistricting will occur prior to the 2012 election. For congressional districts the lines will be drawn by the state legislature.

The procedure will be the same as any piece of legislation except it must originate in the House. The plan will be subject to debate and amendments by legislators in both chambers. Any compromise will be agreed to in a Conference Committee and the final version will be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his approval or veto.

If the plan is vetoed and the Legislature fails to over ride, or if the Legislature fails to pass a plan of any kind, the issue will then be sent to a group of judges who will draw the lines in time for the election.

As usual, I can be reached at State Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or 573-751-2076, or carl_vogel@senate.mo.gov for you questions, comments, or advice.

State Sen. Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 6th District.

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