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Missouri Republicans unveil new congressional map

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Redistricting leaders from both chambers of the Missouri Legislature released their proposed changes to congressional maps Thursday afternoon, setting the stage for a battle in the statehouse next session. 

Missouri’s map would likely remain 6-2 favoring Republicans — instead of a rumored 7-1 —if the draft were approved.  

The largest change from the current map would be to the 5th congressional district, which would shrink from a four-county area to merely cover Jackson County

Lafayette and Saline counties would be absorbed into the 4th district along with half of Ray County; the rest of Ray County would join the 6th district to the north. 

The 7th district would also lose Polk County to the 4th district, while Taney County and part of Webster County would move to the 8th district under the proposal. 

The 8th district, currently held by Congressman Jason Smith, would also be the new home of Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County, a spot that currently sits in the 4th district. 

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The proposal was filed as HB 2117 Thursday by Rep. Dan Shaul, the Republican chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting. 

“The task of creating this congressional district map required balancing the legislative process while maintaining compactness, contiguity, equal population, and preserving the existing districts’ core identities,” Shaul said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues to deliver HB 2117 to Gov. Parson for his signature without delay.”

“This is a fair and constitutional map with common-sense boundaries that everyday Missourians can recognize,” Senate Select Committee on Redistricting Chairman Mike Bernskoetter, a Republican who represents SD 6, said. “This map, which must be passed by both the House and Senate, is also drawn to achieve the greatest amount of consensus possible.”

“My House counterpart and I chose to make this joint announcement to emphasize the great care that went into drawing a map we were confident could survive legislative, judicial, and public scrutiny,” Bernskoetter added. 

A version of the map must be TAFP’d and signed by the governor or constructed by the courts by March 28.  

“Congressional redistricting is a tremendous responsibility for [the Missouri Legislature] every ten years. I appreciate the great amount of work Senator Bernskoetter and [Rep. Shaul] have put in up until now to get us to this place,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said on social media. “We will continue to be diligent in working with all interested parties to craft a map that reflects the strength and diversity of the Show-Me State. I look forward to working with the House to pass a map as quickly as possible at the beginning of the 2022 session.”

The state’s population grew to exceed 6 million, per the 2020 data, with more people living in larger communities while smaller communities shrink. Both congressional and legislative maps will need to change drastically to accommodate the population shifts, according to State Demographer Matt Hesser. 

Maps are required to be as equal in population as possible, with no more than 1 percent deviation from the average population and up to 3 percent deviation to follow political boundaries. They cannot hamper a particular group’s ability to vote, must preserve counties as much as possible, and must be drawn for partisan fairness. 

State legislative maps, meanwhile, are being handled by two bipartisan commissions, one for each chamber. The 40-member commissions were appointed by Gov. Mike Parson earlier this year and are an even mix of Republicans and Democrats. 

These commissions must finalize their work by Jan. 23. If either or both commissions do not submit a final plan with at least 14 members signed on, the Missouri Supreme Court will appoint a six-member commission of appellate judges to submit finalized plans with the Secretary of State’s Office within 90 days of the commissions’ discharge.