Election day is nearing, and among other, high-profile candidates on the ballot, Missourians will also be asked to decide on Amendment 3, sometimes called "Cleaner Missouri."
A diverse state like Missouri is well-served by a representative government that reflects that diversity. That truth was underscored by the wide range of local responses to Covid-19 in 2020: St. Louis is not Chillicothe is not Kansas City is not Hannibal is not Joplin is not Cape Girardeau is not Lake of the Ozarks.
Missouri's 163 state representatives and 34 state senators are elected to represent a group of people in a specific place. Each representative/senator represents an approximately equal number of people in 163 different places.
That's the ideal. Now, inevitably, variables like redistricting, gerrymandering, and new census numbers challenge the ideal. But fundamentally, a representative should represent a group of people in a specific place. We are all Missourians, yes, but within Missouri, our interests and concerns are as diverse as our communities.
The deceptively named "Clean Missouri" act passed on the Missouri ballot in 2018 (and might have failed had it been named more honestly), and is poised to destroy representative government in Missouri.
"But wasn't Clean Missouri about lobbyist donations or something?" you'll no doubt ask. While it did tighten restrictions on donations, "Clean Missouri" was really about something far more sinister. It was about radically redrawing state district lines, to make every single district "competitive."
That means representative districts that now typically only include a couple of counties, could soon extend in diabolical tendrils across the state. These have been dubbed "ribbon districts," but might better be called "snake districts." They would join, into a single district, people separated by hundreds of miles who ought not by any logic be represented by the same person in the state house.
Oh, and those new snakelike districts? They’d be drawn by one person, a "Non-Partisan State Demographer," who is selected by the State Auditor. Our current State Auditor, Nicole Galloway, is running for Governor as a Democrat, by the way. Putting one person in charge of the process—a process currently run by a bipartisan commission—seems like a good way to make it even more partisan.
"Clean Missouri's" voodoo formula that will soon be used to redraw those districts (based on the 2020 census) is derived from how Missourians voted in the U.S. President, U.S. Senator, and Governor elections. The ratio of red-to-blue will be calculated, and then the state legislative districts will be redrawn to try and reflect that ratio. Sounds nice, until you think on it for a moment.
Could it be — just maybe — that high-profile, politically polarizing offices like President and Governor tend to lose a certain nuance when it comes to voter preference? Or that not every Missourian votes straight down the ballot on every single candidate? Or that they skip some boxes altogether, finding both candidates equally onerous? Or that they vote for a 3rd party presidential candidate and a major party governor? And on that topic, will 3rd party votes be taken into consideration with "Clean Missouri's" magical gerrymandering formula, or have we all resigned ourselves to being ruled exclusively by these two horrible parties?
What's amazing, Amendment 3 even keeps the "partisan fairness" and "competitiveness" criteria! It just makes them secondary to the most important and obvious considerations when drawing district lines: population and proximity. The primary emphasis when drawing districts, under Amendment 3, will be to keep districts "composed of contiguous territory as compact as may be."
Here's what "Clean Missouri" misses, and Amendment 3 fixes: many districts within Missouri are deeply red. And others are true-blue. That's because the people in those communities generally have shared values that translate to votes.
Do Republicans have control of the Missouri legislature? Yep. And prudent Democrat legislators would find ways to work with them to accomplish the objectives of their constituents... not work to squash Missourians' representation.
We're not all the same. "Clean Missouri" tried to steamroll Missouri's diversity for the sake of political power, and Amendment 3 would fix that. Vote Yes on 3.
The question for Amendment 3 will read this way on the Nov. 3 ballot:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;
Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;
Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by:
(i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.
Read the changes Amendment 3 would make to Missouri law, below. (Bold text indicates new language added by the amendment; brackets [ ] indicate the language in between the brackets would be removed.)