So why are we voting again on “Clean Missouri?”
Missouri legislators send Amendment 3 back to the voters.
By John Sharp
Missouri voters will decide on November 3 whether they want to throw out a key provision aimed at reducing partisan gerrymandering of Missouri House and Senate districts when they are redrawn every 10 years after the census that was part of the “Clean Missouri” proposal state voters overwhelmingly approved by a 62% margin in 2018.
Constitutional Amendment 3 eliminates the position of nonpartisan state demographer created by “Clean Missouri” and charged with preparing initial legislative redistricting plans that would go into effect unless disapproved by bipartisan redistricting commissions whose members are nominated by the state’s two major political parties and appointed by the governor. It returns the entire redistricting process to such commissions that tend to be made up of political insiders.
Amendment 3 was approved for submittal to the voters by the Missouri General Assembly by near party-line votes, with Democratic legislators and some Republicans opposing it, and the great majority of Republican legislators favoring it.
Another change in Amendment 3 that some observers say could possibly be used to set Missouri apart from the other 49 states and significantly reduce the political representation of Missouri’s major metropolitan areas is not specifically mentioned in the ballot language.
The amendment removes the provision in the Missouri Constitution that says legislative districts shall have populations nearly as equal as practicable, “…determined by dividing the number of districts to be established into the total population of the state reported in the federal decennial census”. Similar language is currently used in every other state.
Amendment 3 would replace that language with language stating, “Districts shall be as nearly equal as practicable in population, and shall be drawn on the basis of one person, one vote.” It goes on to say districts’ populations shall be “…measured by dividing the number of districts into the statewide population data being used…” leaving out any reference to the census.
The well-respected Brennan Center for Justice that works closely with the New York University School of Law has warned that this language could be used to attempt to allow districts’ boundaries to be drawn counting only adult citizens and not children and noncitizens.
In a statement released September 18, the Center said, “Amendment 3 would replace the Missouri Constitutions’s current total-population language with new language that, according to its proponents at least, would allow map drawers to consider only the number of U.S. citizens over the age of 18 (that is, adult citizens) when sizing districts, effectively cutting out children and noncitizens from representation.”
This would have a disproportionate negative impact on metropolitan areas such as Kansas City that have larger percentages of children and noncitizens than many rural areas. It would also have a disproportionate impact on areas with significant minority populations since African-American and Latino communities in Missouri have higher percentages of children than the white community, according to the Brennan Center.
While Amendment 3 does not require reapportionment to be based only on the population of adult citizens and any move to abandon the long-standing practice of basing reapportionment on total population would undoubtedly result in numerous lawsuits, if such a change is attempted and upheld it would result in a major loss of political representation for metropolitan areas and communities of color.
Other statements in the ballot language for Amendment 3 may be technically accurate, but they are certainly misleading about the extent of their impact.
The first bullet point in the ballot language says Amendment 3 will, “Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees.” This is technically true, but “Clean Missouri” already banned such gifts that are over $5. Does anyone really think that banning a lobbyist from buying a legislator a cup of coffee is a significant reform?
The second bullet point says it will “Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits.” The only reduction is slightly lowering the amount that can be accepted from any person by candidates for state senate or their candidate committees from $2,500 to $2,400. Again technically true, but insignificant.
South Kansas Citian Sean Soendker Nicholson is an organizer for Clean Missouri.
Sean Soendker Nicholson, the south Kansas City resident who led the campaign to pass “Clean Missouri” and also is leading the effort to defeat Amendment 3, said proponents of the amendment are trying to trick voters into supporting it by making a $5 change in the limit on lobbyist gifts and a $100 change in Senate contribution limits.
“These politicians know voters will hate what’s in the fine print of this proposal,” Soendker Nicholson said.