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Judge approves slightly altered County Council boundaries

Judge approves slightly altered County Council boundaries

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CLAYTON • The new St. Louis County Council district boundaries approved Thursday by a federal judge vary only slightly from the ones that had been in place since 2002.

An attorney for Democrats on the County Council hailed that as a good thing.

But a Republican council member said the ruling maintained a status quo that benefits Democrats.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Adelman ruled on the districts after a reapportionment commission of Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a map. Reapportionment is required after every U.S. census. The ruling marked the fourth time in four decades that a judge ruled on the boundaries.

By law, the redistricting was required to get as close to the target number — one-seventh of the county's population — in each district as possible. The target number is 142,708.

Federal civil rights law also requires that attention be paid to minority groups to make sure new boundaries do not dilute their chance of electing one of their number.

Jane Dueker is the attorney for county Democrats who filed the suit in federal court. The plaintiffs included three Democratic members of the County Council — Steve Stenger of the Affton area, Pat Dolan of Richmond Heights and Mike O'Mara of Florissant.

In his ruling, Adelman accepted a map drawn by David Kimball, an expert witness for the plaintiffs. Kimball is an associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

In his opinion, Adelman wrote: "The evidence reveals that the map was not drawn with Republican or Democrat politics in mind."

Changes to the map include a slight southward shift of the 2nd District, represented by Democratic council member Kathy Burkett; chunks of territory from the 6th and 7th districts that were added to Republican council member Colleen Wasinger's 3rd District; and a densely populated triangle of territory that will shift from O'Mara's 4th District to fellow Democratic council member Hazel Erby's 1st District.

Dueker said her clients were pleased with the ruling.

"The judge agreed that (Kimball's) map was drawn with the best interests of the voters in mind," Dueker said.

Council member Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, noted the similarity of the old and new maps.

"There's very little change, really," he said. "The previous map favored Democrats, and the new map is likely to favor them. It keeps the 1st, 4th and 2nd districts as very safe for Democrats. There are still two districts that are safe for Republicans, the 3rd and the 7th. I suppose you could argue that the 5th district is a swing district, but it's been decidedly Democrat the last couple of elections. And it seems that the little area of the 6th that was moved to the 3rd District had been Republican to begin with, which will only make the 6th more winnable for the Democrats."

Stenger, who represents the 6th District, said the small area he lost was equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

He said, "I'd say the changes amounted to a wash for my district and for the whole county overall."

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