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Judicial Redistricting Commission sets Friday hearing on Missouri Senate maps

A panel of appellate judges working to draw 34 districts for the Missouri Senate will hold a public hearing Friday in Jefferson City.

The six-member Judicial Redistricting Commission will take testimony from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Truman State Office Building. The commission has until mid-April to submit a map to the Secretary of State’s office.

Filing opened Tuesday for the 17 even-numbered districts on this year’s ballot. As of mid-day Wednesday, 31 candidates have filed without assurance that they will live in the district where they are running, or even that the district number will be the same.

The hearing Friday is the new time for a Feb. 17 hearing canceled due to winter weather.

The Missouri Supreme Court appointed the six judges on Jan. 11 under a constitutional provision that became effective when the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission failed to agree on a plan.

The panel is trying to draw 34 districts balanced by population, which both protect minority representation rights and keep communities of interest together. Full districts must be drawn within the boundaries of counties equal to or above the ideal population of 181,026 and any remainder after full districts are designed is paired with territory from adjoining counties.

In the past, counties that have less than enough population for a full district had to be included in their entirety in a Senate district. Provisions enacted in a 2020 constitutional amendment allow those smaller population counties to be split, but no more than once, to achieve balance.

In the past, when judicial commissions took over the job of drawing legislative districts, the panels operated mainly in secret. The Missouri Constitution requires the panel to have one hearing after preparing a tentative map but so far, no plan has been posted online.

In addition to in-person testimony, the judicial commission is taking written comments online.

For Friday’s hearing, the commission is asking people providing testimony to limit their remarks to 10 minutes. Written materials and maps can be submitted ahead of time through the online comments portal.

The commission is chaired by Judge Cynthia Martin of the Western District Court of Appeals, with Judge Gary Lynch of the Southern District Court of Appeals serving as co-chair. The other members are Judges Thomas A. Chapman of the Western District; Michael Gardner and Angela Quigless of the Eastern District Court of Appeals; and Judge Mary Sheffield of the Southern District.

This article by Rudi Keller is published from The Missouri Independent via a Creative Commons license.

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