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Opinion: Amendment 3 will stop gerrymandering in Missouri

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This November, Missourians have the opportunity to clean up politics by voting yes on Amendment 3.

This measure will fix the redistricting mess that out-of-state activists brought to Missouri in 2018. It also will reduce campaign contribution limits and outlaw gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators. These are real reforms that we need in Jefferson City.

In 2018, out-of-state political activists funded an effort to change Missouri’s redistricting process. They sold their plan by claiming it would make elections fairer and remove politics from the process. In fact, it did exactly the opposite. This deceitful plan, which passed on the ballot as Amendment 1, literally elevated partisanship to be the primary issue in redistricting.

These out-of-state activists looked at the state legislature and decided we had too many members of one political party and not enough of the other. They claimed this was due to unfair, rigged district boundaries.

In reality, Missouri’s legislative district lines don’t jump around a lot. They’re mostly squared off and keep most counties and communities intact. People living in these communities tend to see the world similarly and thus vote for people like them.

Politically, this goes both ways. For example, in 2016, the 1st Congressional District in urban St. Louis voted for Hillary Clinton by a 77-19 margin. Should we be shocked to learn that every state representative and senator in the district is a Democrat? The same election, southeast Missouri’s 8th Congressional District went for Donald Trump by a similar 75-21 margin. Is it any wonder every state legislator there is Republican?

The billionaires behind the 2018 effort did not think these results were acceptable. They decided that mixing up the boundaries through political redistricting might give their preferred candidates a chance at more seats. Their plan said partisan voting history in prior elections must be the main consideration when drawing new district lines. It put the focus on creating politically “competitive” districts for the next election – not trying to keep counties, towns and neighborhoods intact.

Making toss-up districts out of heavily Democratic or heavily Republican areas requires them to be mixed together using intense gerrymandering. There’s simply no way around it. If you take a sliver of St. Louis and draw a snaking spaghetti noodle of a district southeast toward the Bootheel, you might eventually pick up enough Democrats and enough Republicans to approach a 50-50 district.

But who does that district represent? Such a district might slice a dozen communities in half to achieve its partisan goals. Boundaries would be incomprehensible. Next-door neighbors would have different representatives, each of whom might live a few counties away.

These billionaire activists want to engineer particular election results in our state. This should not be the goal of redistricting. Real representation should. We need to focus on keeping local voices for local communities.

Amendment 3 will stop the gerrymandering and keep communities whole. Missourians should vote yes on Amendment 3 to protect their voices in state government.

Eric Bohl, of Columbia, is the director of public affairs and advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization. He can be reached at eric.bohl@mofb.com.

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