(The Center Square) – With Thursday’s long-awaited release of 2020 U.S. Census state and county population breakdowns, a pair of governor-appointed, 20-member commissions, each with 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, are set to begin Missouri’s decennial reapportionment process.
The Census population and ethnicity data will be used to redraw 429 U.S. House districts in 44 states and 7,383 state legislative districts nationwide.
In Missouri, the data will be used by the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission to reconfigure its 34 senate districts. The House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission will do the same with 163 House districts.
The Missouri General Assembly will reconfigure the state’s eight congressional districts when they convene in January for their 2022 session.
According to the Census, there are 6.15 million people living in Missouri, nearly 3% more than a decade ago – just enough growth for the state to retain its eight congressional districts into the 2030s.
But shifts in populations within the state – suburban growth, rural stagnation – will determine how lawmakers reapportion the districts for the 2022 midterm elections.
The Missouri Division of Budget & Planning’s Redistricting Office spells out timelines for state General Assembly and congressional districts. The commissions must present reconfigured districts to the Secretary of State by Dec. 23.
Lawmakers must approve the reapportioned congressional districts no later than March 28, 2022.
Both commissions met for the first time Tuesday, with the Senate panel quickly naming Jefferson City attorney Marc Ellinger, a Republican and former legal counsel for the Missouri State Auditor’s office, chair.
Former State Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, will serve as vice chair of the Senate commission, which scheduled three public hearings: Oct. 18 in Springfield; Oct. 19 in Kansas City and Oct. 21 in St. Louis.
Things did not go as smoothly with the House commission, which deadlocked repeatedly in 10-10 votes in naming a chair and in determining the number of public hearings.
The commission’s 10 Republicans argued because Gov. Mike Parson appointed all the members and is a Republican, the chair should be a member of the GOP – like the way it was done under Democratic governors.
Democrats disagreed that the governor’s affiliation should make the chair reflect that by default.
“Having a 50-50 split forces us to work together in a fair and equitable manner,” Democrat Harvey Ferdman said. “We owe it to the citizens to allow alternating chairing of the meetings, or should I say running the meetings, between the two parties.”
After numerous votes, Republican Jerry Hunter, a St. Louis attorney who has served on past redistricting commissions, was named chair.
He said Democrats are unjustly paranoid. “I don’t know where this idea has come from that Republicans are going to be doing underhanded stuff and we have to keep them from being chair,” Hunter said.
Democrat Keena Smith, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2192 in St. Louis, was named vice chair.
Hunter and Smith agreed to act as co-chairs during public hearings and alternate power to resolve differences at those meetings.
The House commission will hold six meetings. The first three will be orchestrated with the three Senate commission hearings. The additional three are: Nov. 4 in Jefferson City; Nov. 9 in Cape Girardeau; Nov. 10 in Kirksville.
Missouri’s redistricting process has changed since 2010.
In 2018, 62% of voters approved a ‘Clean Missouri’ constitutional amendment requiring a state demographer to redraw electoral districts, making Missouri the nation’s first with a redistricting plan based on nonpartisan mathematical formulas and demographics.
But last November, 51% of voters approved Amendment 3, doing away with the state demographer and creating the bipartisan commissions to draft the districts.
Originally Appeared Here