JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri voters could be seeing the “Clean Missouri” amendment on the ballot again.
Last November, voters in Missouri approved 62 percent to 38 percent for the state constitutional amendment to designate a nonpartisan demographer draw election district lines, limit lobbyist gifts and lowers campaign contribution limits for state legislators.
Lawmakers in the Missouri House are looking to tear down parts of the already voter approved amendment, specifically having a nonpartisan demographer.
“Missouri was one of five states last year to adopt a incredibly sensible reform, right, to take the power for drawing lines out of the hands of politicians, who are so interested, and give it to independent citizens,” said Ruth Greenwood, co-director of voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center.
“The fact that they’re doing it so quickly, before it even takes effect, says to me at least, that they’re worried about what some of the underlying political consequences would be,” said Meador Professor of Political Science at Drury University, Dr. Daniel Ponder.
Gerrymandering is dividing election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections, according to Merriam-Webster.
The League of Women Voters in Southwest Missouri says if the new amendment is approved by voters, it will lend politicians a hand in drawing district lines, possibly to their benefit.
“I think that lawmakers don’t necessarily want to change the status quo,” Ann Ellwell with the SWMO League of Women Voters said. “The way that the maps are drawn now, they were drawn in secret and not in an open fashion at all. Amendment one makes it mandatory that they be drawn and be made public.”
The already voter approved amendment is scheduled to take effect when the results of the 2020 Census are released and redistricting begins.
“This is, maybe, they’re last best hope of making some sort of…trying to undercut sort of the core of that amendment,” said Dr. Ponder. “I think the reason they want to do it now is because it won’t have actually taken effect.”
For lawmakers, this would keep the state auditor, Nicole Galloway, the only statewide democratic elected official, from having a say in examining the nonpartisan demographer.
Missouri politicians say they’re not working against the voters.
“I think there’s a lot of misnomers here,” said Rep. Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis). “We’re not overturning the will of the voters at all. In fact, I’m improving, I believe, on Amendment One through this process.”
But Ann Ellwell says it’s important for elected officials to listen to what the voters want.
“In essence, what they’re doing is changing what the voters said they wanted to be in the constitution and that’s not right,” Ellwell said.
For a Missouri constitutional amendment proposed in the legislature to pass, it must be approved by both House and the Senate. It will then be sent to the voters for approval.