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City voters OK ward redistricting commission, capital improvements bonds

St. Louis voters agreed in Tuesday’s election to amend the city’s charter in order to set up a nine-member redistricting commission that will redraw the ward boundaries. They also approved the issuance of bonds to help fund capital improvements.

Of the city’s 186,422 registered voters, 19,401 – just over 10% – cast ballots in the April 5 election.

The charter amendment, Proposition R, addresses three policies: ward redistricting, changes to voting methods, and laws governing conflicts of interest. It also changes the official name of the Board of Aldermen to the Board of Alderpersons.

The process of redrawing ward maps will be transferred from the Board of Alderpersons to a nine-member commission that, according to the amendment, will “represent the demographic make-up of the City of St. Louis.” An oversight committee will screen out applicants that don’t meet requirements and will then provide a list of applicants to the Board. Each alderperson can strike one applicant from the list, which would then return to the oversight committee. Four applicants from the pool will be picked randomly to serve as commissioners, and those four will choose the remaining five applicants by votes requiring approval from at least three out of the four.

Ward boundaries will be redrawn based on the following criteria, in order of priority:

  • following requirements of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • creating districts with contiguous territory
  • minimizing the division of local neighborhoods or local communities of interest
  • creating districts that are compact in form
  • using geographically identifiable boundaries

Decisions of the redistricting commission, including approval of a final map, will require five affirmative votes.

Proposition R’s second topic was the process of changing voting methods. It follows the voter-approved Proposition D, which let voters pick as many candidates as they like for mayor, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Aldermen. Proposition D also made elections for these offices open and nonpartisan. Now, Proposition R requires the Board of Aldermen to submit any changes to voting methods to the ballot for a public vote, so approval voting can’t be repealed or changed by the Board without voter approval. Approval voting was first used in the 2021 municipal election.  

The third topic addressed by Proposition R is conflict-of-interest laws. The provisions include:

  • prohibiting alderpersons from knowingly using their official position to influence others for their own or a related person’s personal or financial benefit
  • requiring alderpersons to declare personal or financial conflicts of interest and abstain from voting when there are conflicts of interest
  • prohibiting alderpersons from accepting employment or contracts that interfere with the discharge of their public duties or create conflicts of interest
  • requiring former alderpersons to wait at least one year before serving as a lobbyist to influence a city government decision

Funding capital improvements

St. Louis voters also approved Proposition 1, allowing the city to issue $50 million in general obligation bonds for capital improvement projects such as public safety facilities, correctional facilities, pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities, streets, buildings, and bridges, neighborhood recreation centers and fire houses.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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