When Missouri voters passed Amendment One in the fall of 2018, they thought they were voting for ethics reform. After all, who could be against something called “Clean Missouri.” The backers of Amendment One successfully convinced Missouri voters that they were removing money from politics, a result devoutly to be hoped for but unlikely to be found this side of the Garden of Eden.
Included in the “ethics reform” was a series of changes to the way Missouri redistricts after each census. Not only was money to be removed from politics, but the amendment would remove politics from politics! If the idea that money could be separated from politics was the triumph of hope over experience, the notion that politics could be removed from redistricting was, to put it politely, baloney. We now have a system of redistricting that emphasizes competitiveness over every other goal, including commonality of interests, town and county boundaries, and the common-sense requirement that districts be compact.
The problem with putting competitiveness over every other goal is that it is a moving target. No one can possibly know how voters will vote 10 years in the future. If you disagree with that statement, I’ll wait while you find someone who, in 2006, predicted that Donald Trump would be president. Rural Missouri used to be represented by Democrats, but today that has changed. We can’t predict how voting patterns will change in the future and to think that we can is crazy.
The Missouri legislature is working on a bill that will further strengthen ethics rules and return our state to its former bipartisan redistricting process, emphasizing compact districts with common interests. If the bill is passed, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to repeal Amendment One and return to a sensible procedure for drawing state House and Senate boundaries. To enshrine competitiveness with present voting patterns is to disenfranchise rural voters. That was the real aim of Amendment One, and it must be changed.
The bill should be passed, and Missouri voters should vote to restore common sense to redistricting.
Blake Hurst, a farmer from Westboro, is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.