In less than five days, Missourians will head to the polls for what promises to be the most important election in decades. Five statewide executive offices, including the governorship and two constitutional amendments are on the ballot on November 3rd, 2020. All 163 Missouri House seats are on the ballot and half of 34 Senate seats.
But, the ballot measure that may prove to have the most far-reaching impact, shaping Missouri politics for another decade, might very well be a constitutional amendment regarding how state legislative districts are drawn.
In place since 1966, state legislative districts in Missouri had been drawn by two separate “so-called” politician commissions for each chamber of the Missouri General Assembly. A panel split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, not lawmakers themselves, has been tasked with drawing the maps (although, courts frequently stepped in to complete them if the panel was deadlocked).
However, just under two years ago, Missouri was one of five states that decided to make significant changes to the redistricting process to help prevent partisanship and to help reduce political influence on legislative and congressional maps. The measure known as Amendment 1 and / or “Clean Missouri” passed in 2018 with more than 60 percent of the vote. The amendment gave much of the power to draw state House and Senate districts to a nonpartisan demographer who must craft a map that emphasizes partisan fairness and competitiveness.
But before Missourians had the chance to implement the new redistricting system, Majority Caucus lawmakers approved a new ballot proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 38, labeled on the ballot as Amendment 3. It would undo the 2018 protections against manipulation of electoral maps.
The plan would eliminate the non-partisan demographer and return the redistricting power to committees nominated by political parties and selected by the Governor. Partisan fairness would no longer be a top priority to follow when drawing maps, and instead the priority would be keeping communities “compact.”
Missourians do not need politicians to rig districts to favor their reelection and their political party. Instead, we need a competitive process, in which voters have more choice in choosing their elected representatives in a fair and democratic manner.
These ideals for a more diverse representative government are not new. Since the founding of the United States, many politicians have spoken out against partisan gerrymandering. For example, in 1870, Rep. (and future president) James Garfield blasted the practice and objected that “no man, whatever his politics, can justly defend” it. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison condemned gerrymandering as a form of “political robbery.” He stated that its “overthrow of majority control by the suppression or perversion of the popular suffrage” represented “our chief national danger.”
James Madison, speaking at a constitutional convention, even warned that abuses by state legislators trying to protect their own political party would lead to inequality in congressional representation. “It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power,” he said.
Political gerrymandering is a violation of our core constitutional principles and must be defeated every time at the ballot box. It silences and stifles the voice of the majority and can often lead to disadvantages for minorities and non-citizens.
THIS IS WHY YOU MUST VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 3 ON NOVEMBER 3rd, 2020
The language of the measure is trickery, leading with a bait-and-switch popular proposal to eliminate the final $5 that lobbyists can legally spend on elected officials. Hidden in the details, however, is a methodology that does not count children or non-citizens, which ultimately disadvantages voters of color. Don’t be fooled!
Empower Missouri’s Board of Directors endorsed the Clean Amendment in 2018, and they have strongly endorsed a No position on Amendment 3. When you head to the polls on Tuesday (or before if voting absentee or by mail), reclaim your voice, protect our state, and affirm your principles.
Don’t let politicians take our 2018 victory on the Clean Amendment away from us! Vote No on Amendment 3, and show state legislators that we believe that a diverse, fair, and representative government is imperative for a democracy to thrive.