JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — One of the big issues lawmakers are debating in Jefferson City could shift the balance of power. Re-districting happens every 10 years following the census results. The debate is happening now because 2020 is a census year.
District boundaries for Missouri lawmakers were once set by citizen commissions approved by lawmakers and the governor. In 2018, Missouri voters approved Clean Missouri. The constitutional amendment calls for a non-partisan demographer to create boundaries, with the idea of creating competitive districts. The idea is to prevent one party from having too much power.
The process for finding a demographer starts with the state auditor selecting nominees. Current State Auditor Nicole Galloway is a Democrat, leading some Republicans to question whether the new process would be non-partisan.
"I'm sure this is a discussion we'll have a lot of this year, Whatever we pass can go to the voters and we look forward to them weighing in," said Speaker Elijah Haahr (R) Springfield.
Some critics of Clean Missouri believe creating more competitive districts in urban areas could dilute the voting power of African Americans. Supporters say there are protections built into the amendment to prevent that from happening and feel voters have already weighed in.
"From our caucuses standpoint, 62% of Missourians told you loud and clear what they wanted. So we are going to do our jobs and fight to make sure their voices are heard," said Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D).
Other aspects of Clean Missouri put caps on gifts from lobbyists and increase the waiting period before a lawmaker can be hired as a lobbyist. But it's the change in the redistricting process that's sparking the most debate. And could lead to voters heading to the polls again.
Republican leaders say sorting out an alternative to Clean Missouri will be one of their top priorities.