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24 January 2012

Stouffer: Our District Is Changing, Again

With only a few weeks before folks can start filing to run for office this year, the Missouri Supreme Court has made a decision on two of the redistricting plans, which we thought had already been set.

There were three different maps drawn last year: one for the Missouri Senate, one for the Missouri House and one for Missouri’s congressional districts. The judges say the Missouri House redistricting plan is fine. (Read my previous column describing new state house districts in our area here.) What the judges did not like were the plans for the Missouri Senate and the congressional districts.

Congressional Districts

The high court said a trial judge has to hold a hearing and then make a decision on the congressional map by Feb. 3, 2012. If the judge approves the current map, we will move forward as planned. The alternative is a new map drawn by the Legislature that could look significantly different. Those living in Clay, Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties may remember I was not supportive of the Legislature’s efforts to combine our part of the state with downtown Kansas City.

State Senate Districts

The court liked the new Senate maps much less, ruling against the splitting of Jackson and Greene counties. They also contended the panel did not have the authority to provide a “do-over” from the original map released in November, which was also poorly drawn.

As soon and the judges’ decision was made public, the governor started to put together a new citizens’ commission to draw new boundaries. If this commission cannot come to an agreement, then a group of judges would have to make the new Missouri Senate district map.

How does this affect our area?

At the same time, the clock is ticking toward the opening of candidate filing, which is Feb. 28, 2012. There is a chance the Missouri General Assembly could move the dates for filing. It depends on how quickly new maps can be drawn, and if there would be another lawsuit. If not, there is a good chance that we could continue this redistricting rundown for a much longer timeframe than was originally expected.

I am disappointed the judicial panel drawing the Senate maps failed to abide by the constitution in design and delivery.

I would also like to point out that I am in my final year as a Missouri senator. My hope is that a solution can be reached in time and folks will know what lawmaker represents them so government can continue to fulfill its function without interruption. Quick decisions will have to be made. I pray they will also be the choices to move this state forward.

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