Missouri’s Republican Senate leaders indicated Tuesday that they’ll prioritize getting a measure to gut a recent anti-gerrymandering initiative on the 2020 ballot, as the state’s current legislative session winds to a close.
The Missouri House has already approved the measure, which undoes many of the reforms of the so-called Clean Missouri ballot initiative passed by voters in 2018. But it was an open question whether the Senate would prioritize the measure and push to pass it before its session ends on May 17.
Senate President Dave Schatz (R) and Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R) have both put their full support behind passing the new measure, the St. Louis Dispatch reported on Tuesday, leading a Senate panel to advance it to the floor in a party-line 5-2 vote.
“I think Clean Missouri is a train wreck,” Schatz said, according to the newspaper.
If put on the ballot and approved by voters, the new measure would more or less return Missouri to its previous system of redistricting, through which maps are drawn by a commission made up of individuals recommended by the legislature and appointed by the governor. Clean Missouri had sought to put a nonpartisan demographer in charge of redistricting. Under that 2018 initiative, the legislature could then make tweaks to the demographer’s plan if they had 70 percent support of the commission.
Missouri Republicans have defended the new measure gutting Clean Missouri by claiming that voters didn’t really know what they were voting for when they voted for the 2018 initiative, which also included several ethics reform provisions. The new measure, if put on the 2020 ballot, will lead with a provision to completely ban lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers, after Clean Missouri put a $5 limit on them.
“I simply offer a choice to the voters,” Rep. Dean Plocher, the Missouri GOP House member who sponsored the new measure, said of the redistricting provisions, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.
The new measure is one of several examples of state GOP legislatures seeking to undermine pro-voting rights ballot initiatives approved by voters across the country.
In addition to nixing the nonpartisan demographer, the new measure also includes language that observers believe will set the stage for Missouri to try to exclude noncitizens from its redistricting count. That language includes tweaking redistricting standards from being on the basis of “total population” to being based on “one person, one vote.”
Furthermore, Plocher last year sponsored unsuccessful legislation that specifically called for drawing legislative districts on basis of number of citizens rather than total population. That change to the redistricting metric would reduce the political representation given to immigrant-heavy communities, further boosting Republicans’ electoral advantages.
Many believe that was the endgame with the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the decennial census, which supplies states and localities with the data they use for redistricting. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether the question will remain on the 2020 census.