Missouri voters should vote yes on Amendment 3. A yes vote is a chance to correct a mistake made two years ago, but more importantly, a yes vote is necessary to protect Missouri communities, both communities in the physical sense, but communities of interest as well.
Opponents make much of the fact that Amendment 3 will change the results of a vote taken just two years ago. Of course, to take that argument to its logical conclusion, we ought not to hold elections at all. If we can’t change our minds, make better decisions with more information, or hold our leaders accountable, why have elections?
Two years ago, the voters handed redistricting decisions over to a state demographer. If voters really wanted to give that awesome power to a single individual, it is incumbent on those voters to know who our state demographer is. So the rule ought to be, if you can name the state demographer, you should vote against Amendment 3. If you can’t, you should vote yes.
Of course, this is a trick question. We don’t have a state demographer, because the state auditor, responsible for appointing a person to fill the position, and the state Senate, which has the responsibility of confirming the demographer, have failed to make the appointment. Two years into a redistricting scheme that is the only one of its kind in the nation, and we have no idea who will be deciding our future. We often hear about faceless bureaucrats wielding tremendous power. This one doesn’t even have a name.
Opponents of Amendment 3 recently held a news conference, painting a dire future indeed if Amendment 3 passes. One critic said Amendment 3 will lead to a legislature that listens to “parochial interests.” Well, I certainly hope so! As the saying goes, all politics are local, and so are our political interests. We want good schools, good roads, and a good life for ourselves, our neighbors, our families, and our friends. Our interests are local and parochial by their very nature. We live in communities, communities that exist because of the things we hold in common.
That state demographer, should we ever have one, will be bound by present law to draw districts by some definition of “competitiveness.” It will no longer be law or tradition to draw compact districts, or districts that respect towns, counties, or common interests. We’ll have to mix rural and urban voters to ensure more competitive districts, and legislators elected under this scheme will be forced to balance the interests of constituents of wildly different backgrounds, professions, and concerns.
The worst part of the whole scheme is that political affiliations change over time. Every 10 years, we’ll have to completely redraw districts in order to maintain competitiveness, as voters change party affiliation and voting habits. While party affiliation and voting patterns change, those parochial interests tend to stay constant. We’ll be trading stability and tradition for a never-to-be-reached goal of every election decided by one vote. We can’t begin to predict how people will vote for a decade in the future. If you don’t believe me, think about the ability of polls to predict elections that will be held only a few days after the polls are taken.
A yes vote on Amendment 3 will restore the power to draw political districts to a bipartisan commission, one appointed by officials whose names we know and who have to face the voters every four years. A yes vote will protect your community and ensure that you are represented by legislators who know you and understand your concerns. Vote yes on Amendment 3!
Blake Hurst, a farmer from Westboro, is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.