By Max Goodwin
For the first time in 30 years, the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission unanimously approved a new map for Missouri State House districts on January 19. Previous attempts ended up in the hands of the courts.
“We knew that the last few commissions were unsuccessful. We went into it trying to be careful and trying to do everything we can to get a fair map,” said Melissa Patterson Hazley, who serves as a Democrat for the 5th District on the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission said. Patterson Hazley is the Director of Community Based Research, Evaluation and Training at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
If the commission failed to gain approval by 14 of 20 members for a final map, then the map would instead be decided by Missouri Court of Appeals judges.
Patterson Hazley was surprised when all 20 members in the commission voted unanimously to approve the map.
“We were able to increase minority, African American representation by district from 11 to 16,” said Patterson Hazley. The commission also created a Hispanic-influenced district, which she indicated would provide a new voice to the state legislature.
Most residents of south Kansas City will see slight changes in their state House districts as state representative elections are held this year. Some will find themselves in new districts entirely and some districts around Kansas City may end up with new representatives based on the new maps.
Representative Michael Davis, Republican, of Missouri’s 56th District had a range of issues with the process, though he commended the commission on being the first in 30 years to reach an agreement. He said the commission violated the Missouri Constitution when it submitted two maps on December 23.
Davis’s district will see significant changes in the new map. Before, Davis represented the entire western edge of Cass County, stretching in a north/south configuration that included Martin City in Jackson County to the north and Drexel in Bates County to the south.
The 56th District that Davis represents will be encompassed in a fraction of its previous space and will now include a smaller east/west configuration that includes just Belton and part of Raymore, which will be split between three districts: 55, 56, and 62.
“Raymore could have easily been kept whole in a single house district,” says Davis.
Davis also lost the Loch Lloyd community, which will join District 62, as well as Martin City where he currently resides.
“Regardless of how the process played out, I am excited to represent the residents of the new District 56. I look forward to meeting my new constituents in Raymore and representing our shared values in the capitol.”
There are a few more changes in south Kansas City districts.
Grandview’s District 37, represented by Annette Turnbough, will now extend farther west to include Martin City and pick up larger parts of Red Bridge. It will be renamed the 36th District.
The Marlborough neighborhood was moved from the 27th District currently represented by Richard Brown to the 26th District of Ashley Bland Manlove. Brown said he had good relations with residents in that area but trusts they will be well represented by Bland Manlove.
“All in all I think the new maps will at least give Democrats a chance to win some seats and perhaps not have a super majority of Republicans down in Jefferson City after the next election cycle,” said Brown.
Brown made a public comment at a committee hearing in Kansas City to ask that Hickman Mills be included in one district rather than being split between districts, to make sure the area had representation. That was done in the final map. Representative Mark Sharp will represent Hickman Mills now in District 37.
The bipartisan committee chosen for the state senate redistricting maps were unable to reach an agreement. Judges from the Court of Appeals will now be under tight time constraints for the state Senate maps to be redrawn before candidate filing opens on February 22 for primary races that will be held on August 2.
Redistricting takes place across state, federal, and local governments every ten years, rearranging the maps that determine boundaries for each political district across all levels of government based on U.S. Census data. In June that data was released and redistricting began.
In 2018, Missouri voters passed the Clean Missouri initiative that in part took redistricting out of state legislators hands and would have a nonpartisan state demographer draw the district lines for state House and state Senate maps.
In November 2020, Missouri state legislators passed Amendment 3 which undid the redistricting plan from the Clean Missouri initiative and instead called for state Senate and House districts to be drawn by two bipartisan committees selected by the Governor of Missouri from party nominations.