Missouri Senate redistricting map headed for Monday's final vote -- and likely approval
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the 10-member bipartisan committee indicate that the latest redistricting map for the 34-member Missouri Senate may be headed for final approval Monday, despite vocal opposition.
Chairman Doug Harpool, a Democrat from Springfield, said Friday, “The map continues to have broad support" -- and likely has the votes to overcome what he called “a narrow and vocal group of opponents.”
Vice chairman Marc Ellinger, a Republican from Jefferson City, said he would support some last-minute changes. But if they are not approved by the commission, Ellinger said he may vote in favor of the map anyway.
The map needs seven votes – and at least two from each political party – to pass under the state’s constitutional requirements. The initial approval was by eight votes: four Democrats and four Republicans.
If approved Monday, the map would be put in place almost two weeks after candidate filing began Feb. 28. Many state Senate candidates have held off filing until a map is final.
The map sets up new boundaries for the state’s 34 state Senate districts, as required after the 2010 census.
The map replaces an earlier one tossed out by the state Supreme Court on procedural grounds. That map had been drawn up by a judicial panel after an earlier bipartisan commission, also headed by Harpool, had failed to reach the required agreement last summer.
Ellinger said that Thursday’s public hearing, in which commissioners listened at length to critics of the latest map, may have hardened some support in favor of it.
In particular, he cited the testimony from lawyer Edward Greim, who repeatedly asserted that the map favors urban over rural areas. Greim told the panel that he was appearing on behalf on clients that he declined repeatedly to identify.
Said Ellinger: “It’s pretty clear his case is frivolous at best.”
Ellinger said he was more impressed with the testimony from state Sens. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, and Jim Lembke, R-Lemay. The latter is particularly upset with the map because it makes his 1st District much more Democratic.
Schmitt, meanwhile, is among the St. Louis Republicans who contend that the map unfairly reduces the representation of the St. Louis area. The 7th district represented by state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, is moved across the state.
The new map also is the subject of a federal lawsuit recently filed by firms that include two prominent Missouri Republicans – former U.S. attorneys Todd Graves of Kansas City and Catherine Hanaway of St. Louis.
Among other things, that lawsuit calls on the court to reinstate the Senate map tossed out by the state Supreme Court, saying that the map was superior to the latest one and should not be tainted by the procedural snafus that prompted the high court's action.
Harpool, a lawyer, appeared unconcerned about the suit, although he said that the commission will discuss the matter with lawyers before Monday’s vote.
Harpool and Ellinger emphasized that each disliked parts of the new map, but that it may well be the best compromise that can be reached – without tossing the matter once again to the courts.