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Missouri House rejects Senate’s congressional map, asks again for conference committee

The Missouri House overwhelmingly rejected a proposed congressional map drawn by the state Senate Thursday, once again asking for a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

On Wednesday, the Senate’s conservative caucus threatened to upend the chamber unless it rejected the House’s original offer to go to conference. They wanted the House to approve the Senate’s version of the map and argued that there was no point in entering negotiations.

The House returned Thursday and voted 26-129 against the Senate map, then quickly voted to request a conference.

“I just want to continue the conversation and continue the process with the Missouri Senate,” said Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial and sponsor of the House redistricting plan. “It’s as simple as that. Do we want to continue this conversation or not?”

Across the Capitol, however, the Senate had already adjourned for the week by the time the House voted.

The back-and-forth is only the latest roadblock in the legislature’s attempt to redraw Missouri’s eight congressional districts following the U.S. Census.

The House quickly approved a plan in January that maintained the current partisan breakdown of the map — six Republican seats and two Democratic seats.

Members of the Senate conservative caucus then went to war with GOP leaders in the hopes of forcing the chamber to approve a map that gerrymanders the Kansas City district to make it easier for Republicans to capture the seat.

When that plan failed, they began pushing for a map that added additional GOP votes to the suburban St. Louis district of U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner.

A compromise was struck last week, and the Senate sent its version of the map to the House.

But House Republicans didn’t like what they saw.

Among them is Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland. On Thursday, she decried the map for cutting Boone County in half — including drawing a district line that splits the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

“I’m not sure if it goes zigzag through the Columns, but it’s pretty close down the middle,” Shaul said while discussing the Senate’s plan with Walsh Thursday.

The gridlock leaves the fate of the legislature’s map in question days after candidate filing for the 2022 election closed.

It also raises the chances that maps could be drawn by judges, as voters represented by Democratic attorneys have already filed a lawsuit asking for the courts to intervene.

“They don’t want to talk about it,” Shaul said of the Senate. “They don’t want to continue the process … They basically said, take it or leave it.”

This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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