(The Center Square) – In 2018, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a wide-ranging ‘Clean Missouri’ constitutional amendment that restricted gifts from lobbyists to legislators and capped individual campaign contributions for state Legislature races.
The measure also required the state demographer to redraw Missouri’s congressional and state legislative electoral districts when post-U.S. Census redistricting begins next year, making the Show Me State the first in the nation where voters approved a redistricting plan that would be based on non-partisan mathematical formulas and demographics.
Amendment 3, one of two proposed constitutional measures on Missouri’s Nov. 3 ballot, seeks to amend ’Clean Missouri’ by asking voters to prohibit lobbyists’ gifts completely – 2018’s measure capped them at $5 – lower by $100 the $2,500 limit on state senate race contributions, and allow two bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor, one for the House and one for the Senate, to orchestrate the state’s redistricting plan as they had previously done.
A 2018 Associated Press analysis indicated a redistricting process managed by the non-partisan state demographer would produce gains for Democrats in Missouri’s 2022 House and Senate races.
That hasn’t set well with Republicans. During the 2020 legislative session, Republicans argued ‘Clean Missouri’ was too broad and, while its ethics reforms were welcome, the sweeping revision of the state’s redistricting should be nixed with the process returned to the hands of state lawmakers rather than a state bureaucrat.
Missouri lawmakers in May adopted Senate Joint Resolution 38, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, to place the measure before voters on November’s ballot.
“This would give the voters another opportunity to weigh in on this monumental change that could have ramifications for years, if not generations,” Hegeman said of SJR 38 – now Amendment 1 – during the session.
Under Amendment 3, each of the two legislative chambers’ 20-member commissions must produce a redistricting plan approved by at least 14 members within six months of being appointed by the governor.
“If either commission fails to file its plan with the Secretary of State within such time period, then the commission failing to do so shall stand discharged” and redistricting will be conducted “by a commission of six members appointed by the Supreme Court from among the judges of the appellate courts of the state of Missouri.”
The electoral redistricting plan outlined in Amendment 3 would not use U.S. Census results. Instead, it would rely on state demographic data and exclude non-voting immigrants and children from district population numbers.
The ballot measure has drawn legal challenges. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce in August called the ballot language’s language “misleading, unfair, and insufficient,” prompting a revision of 1,700 ballots that had already been mailed at voters’ request.
The proposed amendment has also drawn heated opposition, most notably from No On 3, which has raised more than $1.3 million to defeat the measure.
In a new round of television ads, No On 3 calls Amendment 3 “an old-school sideshow” that claims to be about ethics reform when it’s really about those in power hoping to stay in power by redrawing electoral districts in their favor.
“Zero people think that a $5 lobbyist gift change or a $100 contribution limit change are reform,” No On 3 Director Sean Nicholson told the Missouri Times and other media outlets this week.
Amendment 3 is “a smokescreen to distract voters from the real goal of the plan, which is letting lobbyists and political operatives draw district maps to protect their favorite politicians,” Nicolson said. “Voters can see through the smokescreen and recognize Amendment 3 for what it is – a radical plan to let lobbyists draw incumbent districts in a redistricting system unlike Missouri – or America – has ever seen.”