COLUMBIA, Mo. – County clerks around the state will be working overtime for the next week after lawmakers approved a map during the final hours of the session.
By next Tuesday, May 24, local election authorities must have voters in their correct districts but since the General Assembly waited so long to pass a congressional map and many counties split, it causes even more stress.
Boone County is split along Broadway in Columbia, the city’s downtown business area. Under the map drawn in 2010, the entire county was in the 4th District, but under the proposal sent to the governor’s desk last week, it cuts the county into the 3rd and 4th districts.
“We have a very short turnaround to get it ready so voters get the right ballot for August,” Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said Monday. “Compared to running elections in the middle of COVID, it’s not as daunting as trying to do that, but it is definitely something we want to make sure we get right.”
Lennon said she’s prepared for long nights over the next several days with the deadline only a week away. Other counties that are split include Jackson, St. Charles, Jefferson, Webster, and Warren.
“Voters don’t have to do anything with regards to re-registering or changing it, it’s our responsibility to make sure that you get the right ballot style as a voter and that’s the part we’re doing,” Lennon said.
But the General Assembly left county clerks around the state, little time to do this, after the Senate passed a map Thursday evening, less than 24 hours before the session ended.
The new map, House Bill 2909, a 6 Republican-2 Democrat map, is similar to what’s already in place. It keeps both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in the 4th District. It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. It also puts more of St. Charles in the same district with 25% in the 2nd District and 74% in the 3rd District. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%.
It also leaves the Democrat seat, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s district, in Jackson County but splits the county three ways, between the 5th, 6th, and 4th districts. It also chops Webster County, near Springfield, into two districts. Under the current map. nearly all of Webster County was in the 4th District, but under the new version would be split in half between the 4th and 7th districts.
Jefferson City would also be split between the 3rd and the 8th districts. In his version he proposed Monday, he said that they had to cut farther into Jefferson County in order to keep Phelps all within the 8th District.
It makes the 2nd District, which is held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, more Republican and makes changes to U.S. Rep. Cori Bush’s district, the 1st to include Richmond Heights and Maplewood.
Boone County is also split between the 3rd and 4th districts along Broadway and I-70.
“The certainty was the important part, not necessarily where the lines were or what they looked like, it’s just that we needed to have one [map],” Lennon said. “I can’t overstate the importance of we only have a week to do this and that is incredibly tricky.”
The map caused tensions to run high in the Senate, forcing the House to draw a new version and vote on it during the final week of session. Missouri is one of the last states in the nation to complete its constitutional duty.
“I think that it took so long to get where we were on the maps because you just had too many chefs in the kitchen,” Senate Minority John Rizzo (D-Independence) said after the session Thursday night.
Lennon said that voters must be placed in the correct district by May 24, then the following day is when the local election authorities start creating the August primary ballot since absentee ballots have to be ready by the middle of June.
“It is certainly a reality that the clerks are going to have some issues and so hopefully they can work through them,” Senate Majority Caleb Rowden said. “We did our level best to get this thing done as quickly as we could.”
Thursday night, the Senate approved the new version of the map, and then unexpectedly adjourned, ending the session for the upper chamber. The House convened Friday morning for the final day of session. When Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) the sponsor of the map stood up to the tell the chamber the Senate approved the map, members applauded.
The state’s population after the census was 6,154,913, meaning that the increase in each of the eight congressional districts was 20,000 people. In total, each district needs to have 769,364 Missourians. The 1st district, which represents St. Louis City, and the 8th District, southeast Missouri, both needed more people, while the 7th District, covering southwest Missouri like Joplin needed less.
“It’s a scary prospect but it’s definitely something we are working our best on,” Lennon said. “Watching the congressional map move through was the last piece of the puzzle and now that we have some certainty in that, we can move forward.”
The governor’s office said it’s currently reviewing the map, but it won’t officially be on Parson’s desk until Wednesday, and he hopes to act soon after.
When asked what happens if the governor doesn’t approve the proposal, Lennon said she’s not sure.
“That’s a big question we don’t know the answer to,” Lennon said. “The only options from our perspective, the only things we can tangible do are either put the new map into effect or not put the new map into effect.”