JEFFERSON CITY — A Republican-led ballot initiative asking voters to overturn a new legislative redistricting process would leave more than a quarter of all Missourians uncounted, leaving some communities with less representation in the Capitol than others, a new report says.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Amendment 3 would base new maps of House and Senate districts on the number of U.S. citizens who are over age 18.
That could leave places with large populations of children, including St. Louis and its suburbs, with less political influence than places with an older population base.
At issue is a GOP effort to undo the 2018 Clean Missouri ballot initiative that was approved by 62% of the voters.
The initiative made Missouri the first state to require a new nonpartisan demographer to draw state House and Senate districts to achieve “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” as determined by a specific mathematical formula. An Associated Press analysis shows the formula is likely to lead to Democratic gains in 2022 while dropping Republican majorities closer to the more even partisan division often reflected in statewide races.
The Legislature’s revision would repeal the nonpartisan demographer position and relegate “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” to the bottom of the criteria list behind such things as compact districts that keep communities intact. It also would expand a pair of existing bipartisan redistricting commissions and make them responsible for drawing district boundaries, as was the case in the past.
Every 10 years, political districts around the nation are redrawn to make sure they are equal in population.
Currently, all 50 states use total population when doing this, which ensures that everyone is considered when drawing district boundaries.
Amendment 3 would make Missouri the first state in the nation to exclude children and noncitizens from the map-making process.
In the report, Yurij Rudensky, redistricting lawyer in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said the change could have an outsized effect on minorities.
Whites make up roughly 79.5% of all Missourians but more than 83% of adult citizens.
“Thus, under adult citizen apportionment, the white population would account for a larger percentage of those counted for representation than it does under total population apportionment,” the analysis notes.
For example, while 21% of Missouri’s white population would go uncounted, 28% of Missouri’s Black population, 54% of its Asian population, and 54% of its Latino population would be erased when district lines are drawn.
It also wouldn’t account for children turning 18 over the course of the decade the maps are in place, allowing for swings in population within certain districts.
“Such a change would be a radical departure from current practice and historical norms,” Rudensky notes. “And any attempt to draw maps based on adult citizens would leave Missouri vulnerable to a host of lawsuits.”
State Solicitor General John Sauer, of the Missouri attorney general’s office, acknowledged the change during an Aug. 28 court hearing on the ballot language.
“(My) understanding of that is that one is based on absolute population and the other is based on the number of voters. So ‘one person, one vote’, the criteria is based on the number of actual eligible voters in a relevant district, as opposed to an absolute population,” Sauer said.
Rather than defend the change, Sauer added that it is up to voters to determine whether the change should be made.
“And by using the phrase one person one vote, the voter is placed on notice that ‘here is a new criteria,’ and if the voter is interested in that particular issue, how are we changing things from what they were before,” Sauer said during the hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this article