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A Year After Voters Pass Clean MO, the Fight Continues

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Redistricting supporters contend Missouri's legislative districts are not drawn to properly to ensure proper balance at the statehouse. (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
Redistricting supporters contend Missouri's legislative districts are not drawn to properly to ensure proper balance at the statehouse. (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
November 4, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It's been a year since Missourians went to the polls and said "yes" to redistricting reform, but supporters say they're still defending the win. In 2018, 62% of voters approved the Clean Missouri amendment, which included a process for drawing new state legislative districts.

Ashton Kuehnel, community outreach coordinator with the Missouri Sierra Club, said their research of voting outcomes over the past six elections shows the races for governor and state auditor were split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. However, in those same elections, 67% of state representatives elected were Republicans.

"There's a big difference from a 50/50 for our top-ticket elections to a 2-to-1 with Republican state representatives,” Kuehnel said. “It shows gerrymandering is strongly affecting the voter integrity and not letting people choose how they vote."

While several attempts at the statehouse to overturn parts of Clean Missouri failed this year, supporters say they expect the fight to continue in 2020. Opponents claim that because the amendment included several reforms, some Missourians may not have fully understood what they were voting for.

Kevin Grooms of Kansas City gathered petitions to put Clean Missouri on the ballot in 2018. He said he volunteered to help promote democracy so the voices of regular citizens can be heard.

"This process allows citizens to do the work themselves. We did it and we won by large margins,” Grooms said. “All we want is for our issues to have a chance for debate in the statehouse. And as of now, they have no chance at all. I'm fed up with that."

Missouri Sierra Club chapter director John Hickey said gerrymandered lines are impacting the environment. As an example, he cited actions taken after voters approved a state park sales tax renewal in 2016.

"Folks showed that they support state parks,” Hickey said. “Well, then, the Legislature turned around and Republican majorities voted to sell off four new state parks. We know Missourians support the environment, and yet that pro-environment public support is ignored by the legislators. "

Hickey said the Sierra Club's goal is to protect public lands, reduce pollution and promote clean energy, not to promote a specific political party. However, he noted Republican House members overall have a 10% pro-environment voting record over the past 11 years, compared with 85% from Democrats.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Missouri Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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