JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson officially signed Missouri’s new congressional map into law after months of heated and long debate among lawmakers.
Wednesday afternoon, Parson signed House Bill 2909, which establishes new boundaries for Missouri’s eight U.S. House districts.
The map caused gridlock in the General Assembly, especially in the Senate, and the governor even called the process “unfortunate.” The map would keep Missouri’s 6 Republican, 2 Democrat split in the House and is expected to continue Republicans’ edge in upcoming elections.
Now that a map is officially in place, county clerks are on a tight deadline. By next Tuesday, May 24, local election authorities must have voters in their correct districts. But since the General Assembly waited so long to pass a congressional map and many counties split into different districts, it causes even more stress.
“Unfortunately, they got drawn into this by almost the clock running out of time, but I’m confident that they will get it right and they are, too,” Parson said Wednesday. “Yeah, they would have liked to have this 30 days ago, 60 days ago, but again the end result is the same today as it would have been in January if we would have got in and got it done.”
Missouri and New Hampshire are the only states that had not at least enacted a congressional redistricting plan based on the 2020 census.
Several other states had their plans overturned by courts for improperly favoring either Democrats or Republicans. The Kansas Supreme Court just upheld that state’s congressional map after multiple lawsuits.
The map signed by the governor keeps both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, in the 4th District. It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. It puts more of St. Charles in the same district with 25% in the 2nd District and 74% in the 3rd District. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%.
It also leaves the Democrat seat in the Kansas City area, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s seat, in Jackson County but splits the county three ways, between the 5th, 6th and 4th Districts.
It also chops Webster County, near Springfield into two districts. Under the current map. nearly all of Webster County was in the 4th District, but under the new version would be split in half between the 4th and 7th Districts.
Jefferson City would also be split between the 3rd and the 8th Districts. In a version proposed Monday, one lawmaker said that they had to cut farther into Jefferson County in order to keep Phelps all within the 8th District.
It makes the 2nd District, which is held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, more Republican and makes changes to U.S. Rep. Cori Bush’s 1st district include Richmond Heights and Maplewood.
Boone County is also split between the 3rd and 4th Districts along Broadway and I-70.
Earlier this week, Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, dropped out of the race for the 4th congressional district in mid-Missouri, saying the map moved her and some constituents into the 3rd district.
Voters must be placed in the correct districts by May 24, then the following day is when the local election authorities start creating the August primary ballot, since absentee ballots have to be ready by the middle of June.
“I think the map is constitutional,” Parson said “It’s unfortunate it took as long as it did. It probably caused some other major priorities that we had that didn’t make it across the finish line.”
Last Thursday night, hours before session was set to end, the Senate approved the new version of the map, and then unexpectedly adjourned, ending session for the upper chamber. The House convened Friday morning for the final day of session. When Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, the sponsor of the map, stood up to the tell the chamber the Senate approved the map, members applauded.
The state’s population after the census was 6,154,913, meaning the increase in each of the eight congressional districts was 20,000 people. In total, each district needs to have 769,364 Missourians.
The 1st district, which represents St. Louis City, and the 8th district, southeast Missouri, both needed more people, while the 7th district, covering southwest Missouri like Joplin needed less.
“I think a 6-2 map is fair to the people of Missouri, and that’s the way it ended up,” Parson said.