What voters need to know: Amendment 1 – Lobbying and Gerrymandering

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Amendment 1

By John Sharp

This lengthy amendment would:

  • Create a $5 limit on gifts state legislators and their employees can accept from lobbyists or their clients.
  • Prohibit legislators and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists for two years after the end of their last legislative session (replacing the current six month ban that starts at the end of legislators’ terms and only applies to legislators).
  • Prohibit political fundraising on state property by candidates for the Missouri General Assembly or its members.
  • Slightly lower the caps on political contributions to candidates for the General Assembly.
  • Require all proceedings and legislative records of the General Assembly to be subject to the Missouri sunshine law. (Some legislative committee chairmen have refused to allow spectators to record public hearings.)

The most controversial provision in this amendment would change the process of redrawing state legislative boundaries after each federal census. Right now legislative boundaries are to be drawn by bipartisan commissions, but when they fail to agree as they often do, a commission of six Missouri Court of Appeals judges chosen by the Missouri Supreme Court is given the task.

Trade-offs among commission members often result in large numbers of districts being “safe” for candidates of one party or the other, reducing the number of truly competitive districts.

Voting districts are often gerrymandered so obviously they look like ink blots on a psychological test and have the effect of allowing politicians to choose their voters rather than vice versa.

Amendment 1 authorizes the state auditor to submit a list to the state senate majority and minority leaders of at least three applicants to serve as a non-partisan state demographer to draw district boundaries. If the leaders cannot agree on a selection, each can eliminate one-third of the names on the auditor’s list, and the demographer would then be selected by random lottery among the remaining applicants.

The amendment only allows changes in the demographer’s boundaries if 70 percent of a bipartisan commission votes to make boundary changes.

Under this amendment the top priority for drawing district boundaries would be partisan fairness so that the number of legislative seats a party holds is roughly equal to that party’s statewide popular vote totals. Right now the percentage of legislative seats Democrats hold in both the House and the Senate (less than one-third in each) is far below their statewide vote totals.

Some African-American political groups such as Freedom, Inc., oppose Amendment 1 because they fear it will dilute predominantly African-American residential areas resulting in less African-American legislators. It also is opposed by many Republican legislators who like how the current redistricting process works just fine.

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