At a recent candidate forum, Republican candidates for the state Legislature voiced opposition to Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri initiative.
The basis for their opposition was the requirement for an independent demographer to recommend district boundary adjustments to make races more competitive. In voicing their opposition, the Republican candidates misrepresented the appointment process, the demographer’s power and the likely result of these changes.
Why is this reform even needed? The change is needed to make our state legislative representatives accountable to those who live in their districts. Currently, legislative districts are gerrymandered such that most state legislative elections are not competitive, meaning that one party always wins and wins by a substantial margin – in some districts it is the Democrat and some it is the Republican. In these situations, party primary elections determine the winner and it is easier for party bosses and special interests (including outside interests) to influence who the winning candidate will be while dedicating less effort and money than they would have to in a general election.
This is a system that may work well for the Democrat and Republican Party power brokers, for special interest lobbying groups and for incumbents who are more easily able to leverage this system to their advantage in elections; but, it is destructive to a democratic process aimed at electing persons who will place the interests of the people in their district above all others.
According to Amendment 1 language, the state auditor does not select the state demographer as Republicans claimed. The auditor submits lists of qualified candidates to majority and minority legislative leaders who in agreement make the appointment or follow a bi-partisan process to make the selection. The demographer develops district maps to achieve equal populations with representative demographic makeups following existing geographic and political boundary lines in addition to constructing the districts to maximize party competitiveness to the extent “practicable.” “Districts shall be designed in a manner that achieves both partisan fairness and, secondarily, competitiveness.” This means that many districts will remain non-competitive because they accurately and fairly represent a political party’s popular support in that area of the state.
The demographer’s map recommendation is given to the Reapportionment Commission, which may make changes and who provides a final statement determining legislative election district numbers and boundaries (current process.)