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Opinion: A yes on Amendment 3 is vital for rural Missouri

  

Rural representation matters. Ensuring fair elections matters. That is why the Amendment 3 ballot proposal known as “Cleaner Missouri” matters this upcoming election. Amendment 3 is necessary to preserve the integrity of rural districts and to ensure that rural areas have state legislators who will speak for them. Out-of-state money interests are trying to scare voters away from Amendment 3 so it is important to keep a clear head on this. Cleaner Missouri is vital for rural Missouri.

In 2018, the voters of this state passed “Amendment 1,” and I can understand why so many voted for it. Amendment 1 was sold to the voters as an ethics plan to shrink the size of lobbyist gifts, a practice that many voters find untrustworthy. On the basis of this ethics reform, the voters adopted Clean Missouri.

U.S. Congressman Sam Graves (PROVIDED)

However, what many voters didn’t realize was that the bulk of Amendment 1 was about radically upsetting the state’s redistricting process into something unrecognizable. Amendment 1 shattered how legislative districts are drawn, previously by a bipartisan commission. Now, keeping districts compact will be less important than making them politically competitive.

What that really means is our rural Missouri values will get overwhelmed by the urban population centers. That’s why the Missouri Farm Bureau opposed Clean Missouri. At its heart, Clean Missouri warps Missouri’s electoral map into something unrecognizable.

A “Clean Missouri” map may look like wagon wheel spokes coming out of our state’s urban centers like St. Louis and Kansas City. In my home county of Atchison, we may be represented in the Missouri House by someone living in downtown Kansas City. There’s nothing fair or “clean” about that idea.

It is even more suspicious that the same proposal puts one person in charge of the process, and our only Democratic statewide officeholder — Auditor Nicole Galloway — in charge of selecting that person that will end up drawing the maps for all of Missouri.

An example map, put out by the Farm Bureau showing what this would look like, reveals a horrendous scheme: Marion County is in a state Senate district with St. Louis while Chariton and Carroll Counties are in a state Senate district with Kansas City. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to campaign and gather votes in denser populations than it is where the farmland stretches for miles: Urban voters and urban candidates will basically swallow the electorate, and rural districts lose out.

That is why northwest Missouri’s own state Sen. Dan Hegeman helped put Cleaner Missouri on the ballot this year as Amendment 3, seeking to build on the good things in Amendment 1 and do away with the bad. Cleaner Missouri brings the allowable lobbyist gift down to $0 — completely banning lobbyist gifts going toward the legislature. It’s time voters get a chance to do away with lobbyist gifts once and for all. Cleaner Missouri also includes campaign finance reform by lowering the maximum campaign contribution to state senate races.

More importantly, Cleaner Missouri gets rid of the ridiculous way maps would be drawn and replaces it with a bipartisan commission that will draw legislative maps with the right priorities: keeping our rural districts together. This bipartisan committee will focus on stopping gerrymandering, which people on all sides of the aisle despise. Cleaner Missouri just ensures that the focus of the district is geography, not partisan politics.

Rural representation is critical both in north Missouri and throughout the state. Cleaner Missouri is vital to ensuring that we don’t lose it. I urge all voters to vote “yes” on Amendment 3 to ensure that rural Missouri doesn’t lose its voice in Jefferson City.