Judicial panel redraws Mo. legislative districts (expanded)

A panel of Missouri appeals court judges released new boundaries for Missouri House and Senate districts Wednesday based on the 2010 census, saying some “significant changes” were necessary to account for population shifts during the past decade.

The new maps that reshaped districts across the state will take effect for 2012 elections, potentially pitting some incumbents against each other and, in some cases, forcing majority-party Republicans to defend some seats that now will have a majority of Democratically inclined voters.

State legislative districts are redrawn each decade after the census. Missouri’s population grew by about 7 percent, but the growth was not equally distributed. The southwest corner of the state and the outer St. Louis suburbs were among the fastest-growing areas, while St. Louis city and St. Louis County each lost population since 2000.

The new districts for the 34-member Senate and 163-member House were developed by a commission of six appeals court judges, because state redistricting commissions with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats deadlocked this summer. However, the rationale behind the new maps was not entirely clear, because the judicial commission developed maps and deliberated in private after accepting public testimony for one day in October.

“We have worked collaboratively to draw maps that comply with the constitution, the Voting Rights Act and other legal requirements,” said Judge Lisa White Hardwick, who was the chairwoman of the redistricting commission.

Candidate filing for the August political party primaries runs from Feb. 28 through March 27. Those winners then will face off in the November 2012 general elections.

The new maps include several significant changes. For example, the St. Louis area appears to have one fewer Senate seat. The 7th District in St. Louis County — now held by Republican Sen. Jane Cunningham — was moved so that it stretches from Lincoln County just north of St. Louis to Callaway County in central Missouri.

Another Senate district that previously included Cape Girardeau — the 27th District — was placed in the St. Louis-area. But the incumbent, Republican Sen. Jason Crowell, already is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election.

In western Missouri, Jackson County now is covered by five state Senate districts instead of the previous four. However, several of those Senate districts cross county borders. The 10th Senate District is divided among Jackson, Cass and Clay counties, and the neighboring 8th District crosses Jackson County on a diagonal stripe that starts in Cass County and ends in northeastern Jackson County. The 31st district stretches from the southeastern portion of Jackson County, splits neighboring Johnson County to the east and then reaches south.

The judicial redistricting panel said the new Senate map has four districts in which blacks are in the majority. The Senate districts range in size from a population of 169,382 in west-central Missouri’s 21st District to a high of 182,516 residents in the 17th District, which covers part of Clay County.

For the House map, there are 16 districts with a black majority and two others with a combined racial minority forming the majority. The districts range in population from a low of 35,303 residents in northeast Missouri’s 4th District to a high of 38,170 residents in the 63rd District, which covers part of St. Charles and Warren counties.

From a partisan perspective, Republicans appeared to keep their advantage in the new maps based on voting patterns from the 2002-10 elections.

Republicans currently hold a 26-8 majority over Democrats in the Senate. An analysis released with the new maps shows Republican-inclined voters comprise the majority of residents in 23 of the new districts, compared with 11 for Democrats. The voting-trend analysis, released along with the maps, was based on results from federal and state elections from 2002 to 2010.

House Republicans currently hold a 106-57 majority over Democrats — a tally which includes one Democrat who was elected as an independent. The analysis of the new House boundaries shows 102 Republican-inclined districts and 61 Democratic-inclined districts.

All six judges on the panel signed off on the new House and Senate maps. Serving on the judicial commission were three judges appointed by Democratic governors: Hardwick from the Western District, Robert G. Dowd Jr. from the Eastern District, and Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer from the Southern District. The other three members were appointed by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt: Don E. Burrell Jr. from the Southern District, Roy L. Richter from the Eastern District, and James E. Welsh from the Western District.

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