(The Center Square) – The only state in the nation without a new Congressional district map is days away from failing to fulfill its constitutional duty, but the Missouri legislature is still trying.
House Bill 2909 passed 114-34 on Tuesday, but Representatives on both sides of the aisle weren’t satisfied. Several said the latest map was inferior to the first map sent to the Senate, House Bill 2117, in late January. The Senate spent February, March and April filibustering, debating and amending the map. Both chambers declined to recede their positions and refused to grant a conference committee.
“That ship has sailed,” Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, said about the bill. “I would love to see it come back to port and deliver the goods, but my job right now as chairman is to get something that we can get to the governor’s desk.”
Representatives complained about the treatment of two Websters—Webster County and Webster Groves, a St. Louis suburb. Both areas are split between two districts.
Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield in Greene County, said neighboring Webster County shouldn’t be split into two districts and expressed dissatisfaction with the process.
“I’ve observed counties where it makes no sense to divide be divided,” Trent said. “I’ve observed counties that should have been split kept whole. I’ve observed population centers important to people with control over the process be protected and placed into specific districts. And most indignant, most loathsome, I’ve observed individual people who have been targeted.”
The entire process was delayed as the pandemic slowed the delivery of U.S. Census information to the Legislature. Rep. Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, who served 32 years as Carroll County Clerk, reminded members of the time needed to prepare for the August primary election. If a map is approved on Friday, election authorities will have six to seven working days to move voters into new Congressional districts. Absentee voting for overseas and military must be ready by June 17, leaving little time to thoroughly check the changes.
“Here’s a great analogy: It’s like building a house that’s never inspected and you think, hopefully, everything is built right,” McGaugh said. “But usually it’s too late once you find out.”
McGaugh said voting system restrictions wouldn’t allow registered voters to be moved, if necessary, out of their Congressional districts after May 25, and there’s a possibility voters will be issued an incorrect ballot.
“If that takes place, it will undoubtedly add to the election mistrust narrative if it is determined, in a close Congressional race, that voters were not voting for their members of Congress,” McGaugh said.
Featured photo courtesy of House photographer Tim Bommel