Ozarks Tonight: LWV says changes to CLEAN Missouri hurts democracy

Ozarks Tonight
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On April 30, a House committee approved Senate Joint Resolution 38, which means voters in Missouri could see CLEAN Missouri on the ballot in August of this year.

Sixty-two percent of voters approved CLEAN Missouri, or Amendment One, in 2018. State Senator Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, introduced a resolution making some changes to the amendment, and you could see that on the ballot again.

CLEAN Missouri promotes partisan fairness when drawing districts and competitiveness. Some voters and groups in the state disagree with having voters decide again on the amendment. The League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri, for example, is one of those groups.

In this Ozarks Tonight, Jenifer Abreu talks to Ann Elwell and Joan Gentry of the LWVSWMO about where the League stands on this issue and why it feels that way. 

“Voters made their choices,” Gentry said. “And they said ‘what we want to do is see fair maps, we want fair representation.'”

Gentry says it’s disrespectful to ask voters to consider the issue again as if they didn’t know what they were voting for back in 2018.

Elwell pointed out that the majority of voters in every state senate district voted in favor of Amendment One.

“That shows me people are interested in getting rid of gerrymandering in Missouri,” Elwell said. 

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The League disagrees with SJR 38 because it gets rid of an independent demographer, and the League says it will give political parties more power and allow for racial and partisan gerrymandering.

“We are making, it as nearly as possible, that every voter feels they can be heard, regardless of the district they live in.” Gentry said.

“It goes without saying that when you have a nonpartisan demographer, as Amendment One requires, you are taking out of the equation some of the partisanship,” Elwell said. 

The Capitol has been closed, and no members of the public were present during the committee hearing when SJR 38 was approved. And the League has a problem with that, too. They say legislators should be focusing on other, more urgent matters. 

“The Missouri General Assembly should focus on how to help Missourians hurting during the pandemic,” Elwell said. 

Gentry said there was no testimony given because those folks chose to shelter at home.

The new plan could potentially leave out legal residents and non-citizens, and those under 18. The League firmly pushes for a total population, citing a Supreme Court decision in 2016 that supports counting the total population for legislative redistricting.

“Our representatives make decisions that impact every single person in the state, not just those who are old enough to vote,” Gentry said.

The League says if CLEAN Missouri is changed, it could mean whole groups of people in Missouri won’t have their voices heard, and to the organization, fair maps are the basis of it all.

“When you take away a voter’s interest in democracy, you start chipping away at democracy, you start chipping away at the basic tenets of our society,” Elwell said. “When voters get discouraged, they don’t vote, democracy suffers.” 

SJR 38 passed the Committee; now, the full House has to approve it for it to appear on the ballot. The legislative session ends on May 15. The League encourages all citizens to call their representatives to ask them to vote against SJR 38 and keep CLEAN Missouri and voters’ decisions intact. 

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