The Missouri Senate gave final approval to a new congressional district map before adjourning on May 13. Experts say it will likely keep a 6-2 partisan split in the Missouri delegation. The League is concerned that it splits 10 counties and the 3rd District is not compact. Click here to see the new lines.
The Missouri House approved a “least change” map for congressional districts on Jan. 19. A few Republicans had blocked action in the Senate, promoting a 7-1 partisan gerrymander and refusing to go to conference. The House proposed this revised map the final week of session.
The League shared research with legislators showing that 46.5 percent of Missouri voters supported Democrats in recent elections for Governor, U.S. Senate and President.
League members from across the state joined more than 100 voting rights advocates in Jefferson City on May 3. LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod credited a strong grassroots effort for the legislature’s failure to pass HJR79 to limit citizen initiative petitions.
“The initiative petition process is a sacred and trusted right of the citizens of Missouri,” McLeod had testified. “Only 28 of 69 citizen-initiated Constitutional amendments have ever been approved. Many more proposed initiatives never got enough signatures to make it on the ballot.”
The General Assembly did give final approval to HB1878, an anti-voter bill that the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition says places “unnecessary, unconstitutional, and burdensome voting restrictions that undermine Missourians’ right to vote and undermine free and fair elections in Missouri.”
“Limiting the right to vote for some citizens is a limit to the right to vote for all citizens,” says McLeod. In a letter to Governor Parson, she stressed the League’s concern about language that could limit its voter service activities. “This legislation provides unnecessary roadblocks to our most basic right, the right to vote,” she wrote. “Among its many provisions, it requires an extremely limited form of ID to be able to vote which will disenfranchise thousands of citizens who are fully qualified to vote, including voters whose driver’s license recently expired.
“New provisions in HB1878 would allow unnecessary voter purges, make it more difficult for people with disabilities to vote independently, and prevent local election authorities from receiving grant funds to improve their outreach to the citizenry.
“As we understand it, this bill eliminates the requirement for the Secretary of State to inform the people of the change in requirements to be able to vote. Since the right to vote is the basis of all our rights, then properly informing the citizens could not be more critical.”
More than 75 LWVMO members participated in a hybrid Spring Conference on April 30 at the Schweitzer Brentwood Library in Springfield.
Thanks to the wonderful speakers on public school issues, ranked choice voting, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Dr. Grenita Lathan, Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools and Dr. Denise Fredrick, SPS Board Member and retired educator; Dr. Caitlin Davies, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Missouri State University; and Jerry Williams, O’Reilly Automotive DEI Professional, with Krista Moncado from the Ozark Community Foundation. We also appreciate the wonderful hospitality provided by members of LWV of Southwest Missouri.
Congratulations to the winners of the Rachel Farr Fitch Health Care Award: Legal Services of Easter Missouri Attorney Joel Ferber and CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards.
Missouri’s Judicial Redistricting Commission submitted a State Senate map to the Secretary of State on March 15. Boundaries were drawn by six judges after a bipartisan commission deadlocked. Click here for more detail on the makeup of each of the 34 districts.
The candidate filing period is Feb. 22 to March 29. Redistricting is required after each U.S. Census to adjust for population shifts.
Several League members submitted testimony to a Judicial Redistricting Commission hearing on Feb. 25. LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod and Fair Redistricting Chair Sharon Schneeberger spoke in person, while others submitted written testimony calling for Fair Maps and a transparent process.
“If our democracy of representative government is to prevail, fair maps are not only important, but required,” Schneeberger said.
Earlier, the House Redistricting Commission reached a bipartisan consensus on a map of Missouri House legislative districts which reflects much of the input League members shared at public hearings.
“This map will provide more competitive House races in future elections,” says LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod. “The League believes that competitive districts make for a better democracy. “
League members presented testimony at nine hearings, attended most commission meetings, and submitted non-partisan maps developed by the Institute for Computational Redistricting (ICOR).
Several bills being considered in the Missouri General Assembly would put barriers between voters and voting. Several League members have asked legislators to focus on making voting easier, not more difficult.
“The Missouri election system has been proven to be secure. Safeguards are in place,” LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod stresses. “The legislature should be looking for ways to make it easier and more convenient for citizens to vote. The more that people participate in the voting process, the better it is for our democracy.”
The House has approved HB1878 requiring strict non-expired government-issued photo ID to vote. The League supports current identification rules and opposes changes that would disenfranchise students, seniors and other marginalized communities. “Missouri has one of the strictest election laws in the country,” McLeod told the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on April 6. “If this passes, many citizens would appear at their polling place on election day only to discover they don’t have the proper ID to vote.”
HB 1455 would prohibit local election authorities as well as the League and other civic engagement organizations from offering a Missouri voter an unsolicited absentee ballot application. This bill threatens anyone distributing forms to voters who don’t request one with a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The proposed legislation would restrict applications for absentee ballots, not the actual ballots. Ballots are protected by Missouri’s election laws which require notarization of absentee ballots (with an exception for confinement due to illness or disability). McLeod stressed in her testimony that Missouri makes it harder to vote and has more safeguards against election fraud than most other states.
Other legislation would create an even more confusing process for absentee voting. “For democracy to work, every eligible citizen should be heard in elections,” said Angie Dunlap, President of LWV of Metro St. Louis. “Missourians should not need an excuse to vote absentee. A democracy needs every voice.”
On Thursday, Jan. 6, League members joined hundreds of other voting rights advocates in Missouri to mark last January’s attack on democracy.
“The insurrection last Jan. 6 was a clear attack on our democracy. We need the federal election reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act to protect the right of all eligible citizens to vote and have their vote count,” says LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod. “In 2021, 19 states passed legislation making it more difficult to vote. As Missouri legislators return to work in Jefferson City this week, we want them to recognize that most voters and election officials liked the safe voting options they approved in 2020 and are against making it harder for citizens to vote or to put an initiative on the ballot.”
“Fair redistricting is a high priority for the League, since the new maps will shape our lives for the next 10 years,” says LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod. “It’s all about fairness. The League wants to see more competitive districts that reflect Missouri’s political landscape and give voters a greater voice in their government at all levels.”
Reapportionment is an important task the General Assembly must complete after each U.S. Census. The Missouri Constitution requires congressional maps to be drawn using voting data averaged from governor, U.S. Senate, and Presidential races for the past three general elections (Mo. Const. art. III, §3). According to this set of data from 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections, Missouri voters are roughly 46.5 percent Democrat and 53.5 percent Republican.
“Compactness and good political fairness are achievable for Missouri.” That is the conclusion of a report the Institute for Computational Redistricting (ICOR), a research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, prepared for LWVMO. “Partisan fairness can be substantially improved in congressional plans while maintaining compactness and a majority-minority district.”
The League shared ICOR’s report and sample nonpartisan maps with legislators in December. Both of these maps have an efficiency gap of less than 2.5. The efficiency gap is a tool used by demographers to gauge political gerrymandering, the degree to which district maps are drawn for partisan advantage. Click here for a list of legislators serving on the House and Senate Redistricting Committees.
The League is encouraging legislators to use a transparent process and allow ample time for analysis and public comment on proposed maps
The Governor must sign legislation with the final map by March 28 or the process moves to the courts. The filing deadline for candidates running for the U.S. House is March 29.
League leaders Sharon Schneeberger, Barbara Hoppe, Marilyn McLead and Nancy Copenhaver gave strong testimony at the House Redistricting hearing in Jefferson City. They stressed the need for fair legislative district maps that recognize and honor communities, keeping them together whenever possible.
“The League has long taken great interest in the redistricting process,” says LWVMO President Marilyn McLeod said. “For decades, our nonpartisan organization has fought for fair and effective representation of our government. Fair maps give citizens a voice in their government. Maps based on total population are key to getting state and federal funding distributed equitably.”
LWVMO’s Fair Redistricting Committee submitted a report and non-partisan maps developed for the League by academics at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Computational Redistricting (ICOR) to the portals for both the House and Senate Redistricting Commissions.
LWVMO Nonpartisan State Senate Plans prepared by ICOR:
LWVMO Nonpartisan State House plans prepared by ICOR:
Schneeberger told commissioners, “We look forward to seeing fairly drawn districts in your draft maps and trust you will give Missouri citizens time to analyze and understand them.”
Each commission was challenged to submit a tentative redistricting plan to the secretary of state’s office by the Dec. 22 deadline. Draft legislative district maps are available for citizens to review at https://oa.mo.gov/budget-planning/redistricting-office. If either bipartisan commission fails to agree on a plan, redistricting for that legislative chamber goes to a panel of judges.
The League is proud to work with the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition to educate social media users on disinformation. Repeating a lie even to debunk it actually just helps perpetuate the lie.
Click here for more information.
LWVMO members praised the excellent material presented at the 2021 Fall Conference on Saturday, Nov. 13. The theme was Hot Topics: Past, Present and Future.
- Legislative outlook by Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon
- Suffrage to Statecraft. A Closer Look at Dress of Missouri Suffragists and Trailblazing Stateswomen from the MHCTC Exhibition by Nicole Johnston, Curator, Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection, University of Missouri
- Update on Legislative and Congressional Redistricting in MO by Sharon Schneeberger
- Paid Leave – State Study presentation by Alice Kitchen, LWV KC/Jackson/Clay/Platte Counties
- DEI presentation “Our Changing Communities”by Tina Weaver, Executive Director of the North Kansas City YMCA
- The Legislature, Courts and Voters presentation by Evelyn Maddox and Donna Hoch
- Interactive discussion of common issues for urban and rural voters to set LWVMO legislative priorities for 2022
- How to effectively communicate with legislators by Liz Zerr, MNEA
- Update on activities by local League presidents