Missouri Republicans are split over changes to state Senate districts

Feb 1, 2024, 9:58 AM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s high court entertained arguments Thursday on whether to force changes to the state’s Senate districts in a case that has divided majority-party Republicans over how to apply new voter-approved redistricting criteria.

The lawsuit brought by voters contends that Senate districts in suburban St. Louis and western Missouri’s Buchanan County violate the state constitution by needlessly splitting cities or counties into multiple districts. It seeks revised districts before this year’s elections.

Missouri is one of a dozen states were legal challenges are still pending against congressional or state legislative boundaries that were redrawn based on the 2020 census. In many states, those fights have pitted Democrats against Republicans as each party strains to shape districts to its advantage.

But the Missouri lawsuit has divided Republicans into two camps. A Republican Senate committee supports a panel of appeals court judges. But a GOP House committee sided with Democratic-aligned voters suing for the districts to be overturned

Each side contends its approach best discourages gerrymandering, in which mapmakers manipulate boundaries to benefit a particular political party, racial group or incumbent lawmakers. The outcome of the case won’t affect immediate control of the Senate, where Republicans hold a 24-10 majority over Democrats.

“But what it will do is affect the next redistricting and how we do it” after the 2030 census by establishing which criteria are most important, plaintiffs’ attorney Chuck Hatfield said after Thursday’s arguments.

At issue are revised redistricting criteria approved by voters in a 2020 ballot measure. The first criterion says districts must be nearly equal as practical in population but can deviate up to 3% “if necessary to follow political subdivision lines,” such as counties and cities.

The second criterion requires compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, the third prioritizes “contiguous” and “compact” districts, and the fourth requires communities to be kept whole in districts if possible under the equal population guidelines.

The lawsuit contends it was unconstitutional to split Buchanan County into two districts represented by Republicans and the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood into two districts represented by Democrats. A trial judge rejected that assertion in September, ruling the map was reasonable because the constitution places a higher priority on compact districts than intact communities.

But Hatfield argued to Supreme Court judges that it’s more important to keep counties and cities intact than to draw compact districts. Otherwise, it will “enable efforts to gerrymander state legislative districts for nefarious political purposes” by splitting communities, Hatfield wrote in a court brief.

The state attorney general’s office defended the current Senate map. Deputy Solicitor General Maria Lanahan told judges that various other Senate districts — though not challenged by plaintiffs — also split counties while not following political subdivision lines. She said the plaintiffs were suggesting a standard that would be particularly hard to follow in heavily populated counties.

Prior to Thursday’s arguments, the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee filed a court brief supporting the appeal. It asserted the community splits in the Senate map are “completely unnecessary” and that the House map — which avoided such splits — could be open to lawsuits if the court prioritized compactness.

The Republicans’ Missouri Senate Campaign Committee countered with its own court brief, contending that House Republicans had “aligned with Democratic interests” and that individual representatives may have “personal interest in tailoring Senate districts in which they hope to run in the future.”

Senate Republicans asserted that the current map avoids partisan manipulation that can occur when overemphasizing communities.

“Compact, contiguous territory is the first and most powerful line of defense against political and racial gerrymanders,” Senate Republicans wrote in a brief filed by attorney Eddie Greim.

United States News

FILE - Emergency personnel arrive to evacuate people at a mass shelter, Sept. 2, 2021, in Independe...

Associated Press

No prison for a nursing home owner who sent 800 residents to ride out a hurricane in squalor

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana businessman who sent more than 800 elderly residents from his seven nursing homes to ride out Hurricane Ida in a crowded, ill-equipped warehouse pleaded no contest to 15 criminal counts Monday and was sentenced to three years of probation. Bob Dean Jr. also must pay more than $358,000 in […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

New Orleans civil rights icon Tessie Prevost dead at 69

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Funeral services will be held Saturday for one of four Black girls who helped integrate New Orleans public schools in 1960. Tessie Prevost Williams, known as one of the “New Orleans Four,” died July 6 following a series of medical complications. She was 69. On Nov. 14, 1960, Prevost Williams, along […]

26 minutes ago

A deer walks past a law enforcement blockade of President Joe Biden's beach house neighborhood, Mon...

Associated Press

Biden continues to recover from COVID-19, stays out of public view after ending his 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s “symptoms have almost resolved completely” from COVID-19, according to his physician, as the president on Monday remained out of public view for the fifth straight day. Biden announced he was ending his reelection campaign in a letter posted Sunday on social media. He also announced in a statement on […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Plane crashes near the site of an air show in Wisconsin, killing the 2 people on board

NEKIMI, Wis. (AP) — A plane crashed in a Wisconsin farm field near the site of an air show Monday, killing the two people on board, authorities said. Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters responding to the crash in the eastern Wisconsin town of Nekimi on Monday afternoon found the aircraft fully engulfed in flames, the Winnebago […]

30 minutes ago

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks about his possible political future during an interview at the Ke...

Associated Press

Gov. Andy Beshear endorses Harris amid speculation on whether he’s in the running to join the ticket

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday he spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris soon after she became the prohibitive favorite to lead the Democratic ticket, and said his state’s progress “should be a model for the country” as speculation swirled around whether he’s in the running to join the slate. Beshear […]

53 minutes ago

Associated Press

Largest trial court in the US closes after ransomware attack, California officials say

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The largest trial court in the country was closed Monday after a ransomware attack shut down its computer system late last week, officials with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County said. The court disabled its computer network upon discovery of the cybersecurity attack early Friday, and the system remained down […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Missouri Republicans are split over changes to state Senate districts