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Missouri Senate redistricting panel seeks deal

Missouri Senate redistricting panel seeks deal

August 8th, 2011 in News

A Missouri commission responsible for drawing new state Senate boundaries could not reach agreement for a new map Monday and faces a deadline next week for developing new districts.

Commission members said the St. Louis area was one of the biggest topics of disagreement. The panel met for several hours Monday in Jefferson City and examined a couple proposals in an open session and held some discussions in private. The commission planned to meet again next week before its Aug. 18 deadline for proposing a tentative map.

Doug Harpool, a Democrat and the chairman of the 10-member redistricting commission, said there seemed to be fairly significant differences on how to draw the Senate districts in several areas and the St. Louis region in particular. He said the meeting had helped commission members better understand the viewpoints of the others but did not result in a deal.

"I am less optimistic than I was before today started," Harpool said. "It was a difficult day."

In Missouri, two state commissions represented evenly by Republicans and Democrats redraw the boundaries for the state's 34 Senate districts and 163 House districts. Both redistricting commissions have several months to draft new legislative boundaries, which ultimately must be approved by a 70 percent vote in each. Otherwise, responsibility for drawing the new districts would go to a panel of state appeals court judges.

John Maupin, a Republican and the vice chairman of the Senate commission, said there are still some interesting possible compromises to explore. He said no one joined the redistricting panel so that the new map would have to be drawn by judges, and he thinks everyone wants to find agreement.

"It's a process. Anytime there's a process involved, you just have to wait for the process to work its way through," Maupin said. "We have obviously different interests between the Democratic and Republican parties, which is how it's supposed to be."

Maps proposed by Harpool and Maupin offer differing proposal for how to carve up the St. Louis area - along with the most of the rest of the state. However, commission members said that the maps proposed by Harpool and by Maupin agree on the borders for a western Missouri district that includes St. Joseph.

The districts for the state Legislature are redrawn every 10 years after the census. Over the past decade, Missouri has grown by about 7 percent, but the growth has not been equally distributed. The southwest corner of the state and the outer St. Louis suburbs have been among the fastest-growing areas. St. Louis County and St. Louis city each have lost population since 2000.

A separate commission is responsible for drawing new districts for the Missouri House. That panel, which has one Republican and one Democrat from each of the state's nine current congressional districts, was scheduled to meet Friday. It also faces a deadline next week for developing a tentative map.