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Missouri House backs keeping KC congressional district 6-2 for GOP

The Missouri House overwhelmingly rejected efforts Tuesday to draw a congressional map that would have reconfigured a Democratic seat in Kansas City in the GOP’s favor, and instead gave initial approval to a map that maintains the current party divisions.

By a vote of 84 to 60, House members gave initial approval to a map that had previously passed out of committee with no changes — keeping six seats crafted in favor of Republicans and two for Democrats.

Eighty-four Republicans voted in support, with 16 Republicans and every Democrat present in the chamber voting against.

“This is a fair bill, a fair map,” said Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial and chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting.

The map now awaits final approval by the House later this week, where it remains to be seen if a two-thirds majority can be mustered to attach an emergency clause — a necessary provision in order for the maps to go into effect before the August primary.

With House Republicans short of a two-thirds majority, they’ll need the help of Democrats to get the 109 votes needed for the emergency clause. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, was noncommittal when asked last week if Democrats would vote in favor.

“This bill does not adequately protect the interests of all Missourians,” said Rep. Jerome Barnes, D-Raytown, and the ranking Democrat on the House Special Committee on Redistricting.

Two amendments seeking to create a 7-1 Republican-leaning map failed — one on a procedural issue and the other outright voted down.

Members of the Senate’s Conservative Caucus, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Missouri Right to Life have been among those lobbying for a 7-1 map. 

But Republican lawmakers who support the 6-2 map have previously pointed to roadblocks that a 7-1 could run into. They worry a 7-1 map may not hold up in court, and they say divisions among Republicans in the Senate — and a likely Democratic filibuster — could doom its prospects.

The first attempt at passing a 7-1 map, proposed by Rep. Nick Schroer R-O’Fallon, ran into procedural issues when it couldn’t withstand a point of order raised by Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. After a brief recess, House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, ruled in favor of Merideth’s challenge that the proposed map’s districts did not contain equal populations.

The second attempt, brought forward by Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, failed on a vote of 120 to 23, with lawmakers expressing concerns about the number of times counties and districts would be split.

Schroer’s proposed 7-1 map would have kept St. Charles County intact within Congressional District 2. It would have split Kansas City into two districts, with eastern parts of Jackson County absorbed into Congressional District 4, and would have divided Boone County into three districts.

Similarly, Hicks’ proposed map would also have split Jackson County into three districts and Boone County into two. With the exception of Weldon Spring, a majority of St. Charles County would have been kept within one district under Hicks’ proposed map.

In a letter last week, a group of 10 Republican lawmakers who represent St. Charles County, including Schroer and Hicks, urged for the county to be kept intact within one district, noting both its population and economic growth.

Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson, questioned Tuesday why counties such as Jackson and Boone were being divided at the expense of keeping St. Charles whole.

“What makes you more important than them?” Proudie asked.

Hicks said his map was an attempt at achieving a “middle ground.”

Meanwhile, Shaul also noted Hicks’ proposal would divide seven counties and create 10 splits within the map, whereas the map ultimately passed Tuesday had eight splits among seven counties, Shaul said.

Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, expressed support for keeping the I-49 corridor within one Congressional district, while Merideth raised concerns that under Hicks’ proposed map, counties in the southwest, northwest and northeast corners of the state could potentially be represented by politicians from downtown Kansas City if Jackson County is split into three districts.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in support of a 7-1 map argued that it was necessary to “ensure our Missouri values, our American values are upheld,” Schroer said.

Rep. Sarah Walsh, R-Ashland, who is running for Congress in Congressional District 4, voiced her support for both 7-1 maps, arguing the country is “under attack in Washington D.C. by radicals” who “want government to be our God.”

But some Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, opposed Schroer’s map on the grounds it grouped rural counties like Barton in southwest Missouri with portions of Kansas City.

“We’re not the same,” Kelley said. “We have different views.”

Democrats’ attempts at increasing minority and African American representation in Congressional District 1, which encompasses St. Louis, and at carving out Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs to remain with Congressional District 6, also failed to pass Tuesday.

This article by Tessa Weinberg is published from The Missouri Independent through a Creative Commons license.

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