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Our Opinion: Redistricting delays create political muddle

Delays, like actions, have consequences.

Lawsuits have postponed establishing boundaries for political districts, creating uncertainty among both candidates and constituents with filing for office scheduled to begin soon.

In response, state lawmakers now are scrambling to push back the filing period.

The process is not improper, but it does create the public impression that the three branches of government are not unlike the three stooges — stumbling, bumbling and generally making a mess of things.

How did the muddle begin?

In the aftermath of the U.S. census, held every 10 years, Missouri must redraw its congressional, state House and state Senate districts to reflect changes in population.

The 2010 census added an extra wrinkle, because Missouri’s number of U.S. House districts was reduced from nine to eight.

The different redistricting tasks are assigned, as prescribed, to the Legislature for the congressional districts and appointed residents’ commissions for the state House and Senate districts, backed up by — if needed — special judicial panels.

Each redistricting group must follow prescribed guidelines, which often lead to court challenges.

Those challenges, in turn, create delays. Some cases must advance to higher courts, some are sent back to lower courts, some are assigned to new redistricting panels, etc.

While those cases continue, the filing period looms.

Under existing state law, it is scheduled to run from Feb. 28 through March 27 for candidates seeking federal, state and county offices to be decided in the August primary and November general elections.

But how do candidates file for the proper district if the boundaries remain unsettled?

Recognizing that question as impossible to answer, lawmakers are working feverishly to change the filing period to run from March 27 through April 24.

If they succeed, the process will be delayed further.

But, if they fail, a muddle will become the political equivalent of slapstick.

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