Missouri Senate divided over congressional redistricting
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate remained divided over a congressional redistricting plan Tuesday as a filibuster from conservatives pushing for an aggressively Republican map carried on through a second day and Democrats raised concerns that they were being treated unfairly.
The Senate was essentially split among three camps. Republican leaders, backed by a slim majority of their caucus, were advocating for a map projected to continue the state’s current partisan representation of six Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House.
A coalition of conservative Republicans was pushing for a plan that could give the GOP a shot at winning seven seats in this year’s congressional elections. Democrats, meanwhile, contended that a 5-3 partisan split among districts would more fairly reflect the outcome of statewide elections.
“The purpose of a filibuster is to bring the body to compromise,” Republican state Sen. Bill Eigel said at one point during Tuesday’s prolonged debate. “Right now, it seems like part of the body feels like we’ve got a good compromise, but a significant portion of the chamber feels like we’ve been left out of it.”
The Senate late Monday voted 24-8 against Eigel’s proposal for a redistricting plan that he said contained seven Republican-leaning districts.
Tuesday evening, as the debate neared 24 hours, the chamber voted in favor of a 6-2 map by Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden that he described as more strongly Republican than one passed by the House last month. But the vote turned out to be merely symbolic. Because Rowden’s plan was proposed as an amendment to a Democratic one, it was scuttled when Democratic Rep. Steven Roberts then withdrew his underlying measure.
In an overtly political debate, conservative senators pointed to Democratic gerrymandering in states such as New York and Illinois and said Missouri Republicans who control both chambers of the state Legislature should similarly manipulate the map-making to try to maximize their party’s power in Washington, D.C.
Republican legislative leaders countered that an aggressive GOP map would leave more districts with closer political margins, which they feared could backfire in a good Democratic election year.
Democrats said Republicans had become blinded by political greed while discussing how greatly to gerrymander the districts.
“Democracy? Forget about it. We’ve got to win -- Republicans no matter what,” Roberts quipped about his political rivals.
Politicians in power from both parties have been aggressively redrawing congressional districts to their advantage in many states, after the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that federal courts had no role in settling disputes over partisan gerrymandering.
Missouri’s constitution doesn’t address partisan gerrymandering, stipulating only that congressional districts must be “composed of contiguous territory as compact and as nearly equal in population as may be.”
The House passed a plan last month that is projected to keep a 6-2 split favoring Republicans. But some Republicans contend it wouldn’t do enough to shore up GOP support in the 2nd District in suburban St. Louis, which currently is held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner.
Rowden said his proposal would have strengthened Republican performance in the 2nd District by several percentage points. But Rowden’s proposal still faced resistance. Among those opposed to it was Sen. Denny Hoskins, a conservative caucus member who wants to keep the military installations of Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base together in western Missouri’s 4th District. The plans passed by the House and proposed by Rowden would place Fort Leonard Wood in southeastern Missouri’s 8th District.