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Election Preview: Unpacking Amendment 3

Amendment 3 asks voters to reconsider, modify provisions approved in 2018 with the passage of Amendment 1, a.k.a. ‘Clean Missouri’

This November voters across the state will be asked to weigh in on one of the most important (yet misunderstood) issues to the American political process – the drawing of legislative district maps.

State Rep. John Wiemann (R-District 103) is a key sponsor of the legislation (Senate Joint Resolution 38) that has become Amendment 3. The issue on the November ballot will ask voters across the state to decide if the Missouri Constitution should be amended to:

  • change the threshold of lobbysists’ gifts from $5 to $0.
  • lower the campaign contribution limit for state Senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
  • change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018* by transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to governor-appointed bipartisan commissions, and modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.

(*Voters in 2018 passed Amendment 1, also known as “Clean Missouri,” by over 60% of the vote.)

“Most citizens, when asked about their legislative districts, agree that making the districts compact, contiguous, and emphasizing community of interest are things that are important to them,” Wiemann said. “Clean Missouri virtually eliminated these factors from consideration for redistricting and instead focuses on ‘political fairness’ wherein all districts should attempt to be equally balanced between political parties.

“Under Clean, a district that starts in downtown St. Louis could meander out through Jefferson County in an effort to balance the Democrats in St. Louis with the Republicans in Jefferson County. This could result in gerrymandering on steroids.”

Current Missouri Representative District Map
Current Missouri Representative District Map (Source: www.sos.mo.gov)

Breaking ‘Clean Missouri’

Led by a bipartisan coalition, opponents to Amendment 3 unite under the familiar moniker of “Clean Missouri.” The term, which was linked favorably to Amendment 1 in 2018, now refers to the opposition of Amendment 3. Thus, adding to the confusion for voters in 2020.

Critics accuse Amendment 3 of being “deceptive” and an attempt by some to “rig the maps.” According to the group’s website, opposition to Amendment 3 includes former U.S. Senator John C. Danforth, a Republican, and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, a Democrat.

State Representative Peter Meredith (D-District 80) is also among local leaders who oppose Amendment 3. He has used his social media platform, among other avenues, to voice his opposition. On Twitter, Meredith calls Amendment 3 “a nasty and extreme gerrymandering amendment” and charges that it will make Missouri “the most gerrymandered state since 1970s Mississippi.”

Gerrymandering: the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.

As defined by Merriam Webster

Critics view Amendment 3 as an attempt to roll back the reforms approved two years ago with the passage of Amendment 1. Among those reforms was stripping the state legislature of its power to determine legislative districts. Rather, Amendment 1 gave that power to a non-partisan state demographer with the intent of taking politics out of the process. The demographer is to be chosen from an applicant pool by the State Auditor and the majority and minority leaders of the Missouri Senate. The chosen applicant must not have served in an elected, partisan position for four years before his or her appointment.

To date, no one has been hired for this position.

The districts drawn by the demographer are to contain roughly similar numbers of voters for both major political parties.

Fixing ‘Clean Missouri’

Proponents of Amendment 3, including Wiemann, believe Clean Missouri presents its own set of unresolved legal issues. He contends those could be remedied by the passing of Amendment 3.

“Amendment 1 gives the authority to the state auditor, who has nothing to do with elections, to appoint the state demographer, who will be the one person who draws the political lines,” Wiemann said. ” … furthermore, the Missouri Constitution, Article IV, Section 14, (states that) the Secretary of State is responsible for elections. Why did advocates for Clean Missouri select the state auditor for this task instead of the one statewide elected official charged constitutionally with the responsibility of elections in Missouri?”

The fair ballot language approved for the Nov. 3 General Election describes the redistricting process proposed by Amendment 3 as follows:

“The amendment modifies the criteria for redrawing legislative districts and changes the process for redrawing state legislative district boundaries during redistricting by giving redistricting responsibility to a bipartisan commission, renames them, and increases membership to 20 by adding four commissioners appointed by the Governor from nominations by the two major political party’s state committees.”

Among the criteria for redistricting, as defined by SJR 38, are that “districts shall be as nearly equal as practicable in population” and “shall be composed of contiguous territory as compact as may be.”

Read the full text of SJR 38 here.

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