Missouri has three separate redistricting processes. The congressional district lines are drawn and adopted by the state legislature, subject to gubernatorial veto. Two politically appointed commissions — one for the state House and one for the state Senate — draw and adopt the lines for their respective state legislative maps. The House Commission has 16 people, and the Senate Commission has 20 people — both with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, who are nominated by the two major parties and appointed by the governor. If either commission fails, that chamber’s plan is drafted and adopted by a six-member backup commission of state appellate court judges.
After a rough start, the House Commission ultimately agreed to have hearings throughout the state and adopted the final House maps unanimously. The Senate Commission gridlocked and the mapping process was taken over by the back-up Judicial Redistricting Commission, which drew the final maps. After months of impasse, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a new congressional map into law on May 18, 2022.
“For everything we put in…we actually got decent results.” Caroline Fan, Missouri Asian-American Youth Foundation
Community of Interest Story
Ferguson, a small racially divided suburb of the city of St. Louis, made national headlines in 2014 with the police shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent civil rights uprising. At the time of the shooting, the population was 67% Black, with no Black representatives on the city council. A few years after the surge in community organizing and protests, the city had its first female Black mayor, and half the city council, the police chief, and the city manager are now people of color. There was an attempt during state legislative redistricting to split the city; some believed that this cracking effort was a backlash to the growing influence of people of color and was due to the desire to create a safe district for Republicans. However, powerful public testimony by the mayor of Ferguson and civic leaders resulted in the city of Ferguson being made whole in the State Senate and House maps.
Overall State Grade: C
B for State House Redistricting – Process managed by politically selected citizen commission.
After much wrangling, the House Commission held six hearings around the state. In general, the hearings were minimally accessible, but mapping was transparent. Some public testimony was considered, including the adjustment of lines to make several communities of color whole.
C for State Senate Redistricting – Process started by politically selected citizen commission, completed by Judicial Redistricting Commission.
In general, the Senate hearings were barely accessible. The commission did take some public testimony into account and adjusted the lines to make several communities of color whole. However, after the citizen commission failed, the Judicial Redistricting Commission scheduled only two hearings and canceled one of them,47 taking minimal public input before producing the Senate plans that are now being challenged in court. A ruling in this case is expected in September of 2023 or later.
D for Congressional Redistricting – Process carried out by State Legislature.
The congressional hearings were minimally accessible. The map drawing was carried out entirely behind closed doors, accessible only to lobbyists or those with special relationships to legislators. Even though there was “raw politics” and “epic dysfunction,” according to one organizer, the Legislature avoided an F grade by working to protect the ability of communities of color to elect candidates of their choice in St. Louis, Kansas City, and other parts of the state.
- Community input made a difference: The high degree of public participation regarding the state House redistricting resulted in maps containing the first majority Latinx voter district (on the northern side of Kansas City), more majority Black voter districts, and more competitive districts overall.
- More accessible hearings and time for public input must be required: With so few hearings scheduled, people should have been allowed to join the public input meetings through virtual options. For everyday people, including those with work obligations or disabilities, the distances were an insurmountable obstacle to providing input. Additionally, the draft maps needed to be more publicized, with more time for members of the public to examine and give comments on the maps.
- The commission should start with a map drawn by non-partisan experts: The commissioners would have been aided in their deliberations by having initial draft maps that they could have adjusted based on public input. The initial maps could be drawn by demographers or mappers that are nonpartisan state or university employees.
- Nonprofit funding should be raised earlier and support POC-led organizations to be part of redistricting strategies: There are growing Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities in Missouri. If there are groups that are given grants to pull together redistricting community mapping conversations, the coalition needs to be inclusive and to build trusting relationships within diverse communities. Preferably, funding should go directly to communities of color who are more likely to be disenfranchised during the redistricting process rather than white-led organizations.