JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — A new congressional map has received its first round of approval in the Missouri General Assembly.
After a handful of amendments were offered Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers perfected the map, which would have six Republican and two Democrat districts right now, in an 84-60 vote.
With it being an election year, members are on a deadline to get the map approved. Missouri is one of the last states to start the redistricting process, something that has to be done every 10 years.
“We do know from the census data, our state population grew to 6,154,913,” Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, said.
That increase means each one of the eight congressional districts needs an additional 20,000.
“There are two situations here: The 1st congressional district and the 8th congressional district lost 50,000 people each,” Shaul said. “We had a situation where the 1st needed more people, the 8th needed more people, and the 7th needed less people.”
The 1st district represents St. Louis City, while the 8th district is in southeast Missouri. The 7th district covers southwest Missouri including Joplin.
This means the line had to be redrawn because, under the federal Voting Rights Act, each district must have equal populations, within one person.
And while Missouri lawmakers finally came to an initial agreement Tuesday, the final product in the House didn’t come without a fight.
“America is under attack in Washington D.C. by radicals that just want to completely destroy our country,” Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, said. “If we don’t stand here to be able to be a loud voice for the people of our district, when do we stand, and I think it’s moments like this that define us.”
“Who are the radicals trying to destroy our democracy?” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, responded.
A big point of contention is St. Charles County, which is split into two counties.
“Which is the fast-growing county in terms of population, the fastest-growing county in terms of economic development, and it is a Republican stronghold for the state of Missouri,” Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said. “We’re trying to ensure that the representatives we are putting forth with these boundaries are representing the core values of people here in the state of Missouri.”
Schroer was the first member to offer an amendment on the floor. His proposed map would likely put 7 Republicans and 1 Democrat from Missouri in the U.S. House. It put St. Charles County in one district but split Boone and Jackson counties three ways.
Merideth then filed a point of order, saying Schroer’s districts did not have equal populations. House Speaker Rob Vescovo ruled in favor of the point of order call and sent the amendment back.
Then, there was a similar proposal put forward by Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, which would have moved the district representing St. Louis City, the first district, farther north. That amendment failed 23-110.
“I don’t think that the drawing of this map is adequate and represents the protection for Missouri residences,” Rep. Jerome Barnes, D-Raytown, said.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, also put her amendment out on the floor, which would have put some of Jackson County in the district north of Kansas City, the 6th district, but her amendment failed.
In the current map, there are nine splits, but Shaul told members this new map cuts that number down to eight.
“We have a product that is a fair map for the people of Missouri to be well represented according to the demographics and the population data that we received,” Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, said.
It took representatives less than two hours to perfect the map. One final vote is needed before the legislation heads over to the Senate.
When it comes up for that final vote, members will try to attach an emergency clause, sending the bill into effect as soon as the governor signs it instead of waiting until August. To pass an emergency clause, 109 must vote in favor, but without Republicans having a supermajority, they need the Democrats’ help.
Inside the Capitol Wednesday, Gov. Mike Parson will give his State of the State address, which is where he lays out his budget request for lawmakers.