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Congressional District Map Goes to Governor

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.

Legislature Approves Anti-Voter Bill, Adjourns Without Changing Citizen Initiative Petition Process

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.”

Marian Miller, Gena McClendon, Marilyn McLeod and Evelyn Maddox in the Capitol

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.” 

Which way is the wind blowing?

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.

Marilyn McLeod, Anissa Barber, Jill Smull and Julie Steiger with Fitch award winner Steve Edwards.
Catherine Stenger, Angie Dunlap, Dan Glazier, Joel Ferber, Mary Anne Banks, Amanda Schneider, Nancy Price and Nancy Thompson.

Missouri House and Senate Maps Drawn

Tentative Senate District map

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. 

New Missouri House Districts

“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).

Oppose Anti-Voter Legislation

Members in Jeff City for a Feb. 9 House Elections Committee hearing included Nancy Price, Sue Williams, Dorothy Lockard, Mary and Neal Patterson, Cyndy Lenz, Nancy Copenhaver, Angie Dunlap and Marilyn McLeod.

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.”

League Cosponsors Jan. 6 Vigils

Signs were printed using grant funds from the LWVUS Education Fund.

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.”

League Stresses Fair Maps at Hearings

Redistricting has a major impact on many aspects of our lives: education, healthcare, the environment and, most importantly, the voices of the people. New House and Senate district maps will shape our lives and our communities for the next 10 years.

Several League members testified at eight of the nine redistricting commission hearings, asking for transparency in the process of drawing new House and Senate district maps. Click here or on the People Powered Maps image at right to see the list of commissioners. 

McLeod explained the redistricting process on the “Radio Friends with Paul Pepper” program. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/z0958wB6NNA. Click here for LWVMO’s position or here for an explanation of the difference between redistricting and gerrymandering from the ACLU.

LWVUS President Keynotes 65th State Convention

LWVMO held its 65th annual convention on Saturday, May 15, on Zoom. The convention speaker was Dr. Deborah Turner, President of LWVUS. In inspirational remarks, she stressed that the League’s non-partisanship is the bedrock of the organization. “Wanting every eligible voter to have equal access to the ballot box is not partisan. Wanting a robust democracy in which everyone has an equal voice and equal representation is not partisan. Wanting to see more elected officials that reflect the diverse makeup of our country is not partisan – it is American.”

“I know that you have not been deterred in your efforts to create a more perfect democracy in Missouri,” Turner said. “You fought hard to protect clean elections and fair maps in your state, and although you did not get the result you wanted with Amendment 3 in the last election, I have every confidence in your ability to keep up the good fight. At national, we are here to partner with you to continue moving the dial on fair maps, voting rights, social justice, and democracy.”

Dr. Turner stressed the continued mission of empowering voters and defending democracy. She commended the Missouri League for registering and educating thousands of voters in 2020. Click here to watch her keynote address to the convention.

The convention elected Marilyn McLeod from Columbia as President. Other new officers are Louise Wilkerson from Metro St. Louis as Vice President, Kathleen Boswell from Sedalia as Secretary, and Diane Suhler from Columbia as Treasurer. Joining the board are Joan Hubbard, Anne Sappington, and Catherine Stenger from Metro St. Louis and Jill Smull and Julie Steiger from Southwest Missouri.