Richard Fulton

Richard Fulton

The Grand Old Party is up to its grand old tricks again. In 2018 the good citizens of Missouri voted to approve a measure designed to prevent excessive gerrymandering affecting elections. A term, of course, referring to the perverting of the process that the legislature goes through every 10 years after the census to redraw the boundaries of the districts that elect state senators and representatives.

Legislatures have controlled the redraw boundaries of these areas used to divide citizens into districts to elect their legislatures. Gerrymandering is the term given to the attempt by political forces to allow for partisan forces to draw the new lines using voting records to maximize the odds of a certain party winning the seats in the districts drawn. 

By using registration records and party affiliations and voting habits of citizens in the district, the gerrymandered district line drawers can tilt the election towards the party that controls the drawing of the lines. 

The GOP has benefited from their gerrymandering the districts, thus control the process of redrawing the lines. A vicious cycle.

The reform measure passed by 62 percent of the voters. It provides for a nonpartisan process to redraw the boundaries of all of the legislative districts every 10 years after the census. 

Its main element is the provision for a non-partisan demographer (who is an expert in populations and their geographic distribution) to be in charge of redrawing the boundary lines every 10 years after the census has been taken. 

The law’s main purpose, then, was to ensure as much as possible that boundary lines would be drawn without undo emphasis on party identifications and voting habits of citizens. Which, too often, has historically in Missouri provided the GOP advantages to their party candidates because gerrymandering in the past has given them a majority in the legislature and thus control in the process of drawing of the lines.

This means the party with the majority in the present legislature would have a vehicle to perpetuate their majority by manipulating the boundaries based upon party voting habits of citizens.

This, of course, has been a time-honored way of tipping the electoral balance. The GOP has dominated that process for some decades in Missouri resulting in undo chances to dominate the legislature and its legislative product.

The 2018 voters thought this unfair. Not the GOP, however. The Republicans in the legislature were able to pass a law recently that would put the proposition back on the ballot, minimizing partisan fairness and eliminating the neutral mapmaker.

The deadline for passing this legislation is May 15, so we should see how much success the Republicans in the legislature have had imminently. 

In these days of viruses and the resultant limitation of individual mobility in the community, it has been difficult to mobilize opposition to this attempt to undo a law passed just two years ago without a chance to test how it works. 

It would appear that the Republicans are not too fond of democratic elections. A substantial majority of the voters approved the present legislation, but their voice is not convincing to the Republicans who have been used to controlling gerrymandered districts that favored their candidates. 

Well, there is a remedy to this contempt for the Missouri voters. Simply remember this ploy of the GOP and use the ballot box to show that voters can show contempt themselves; this time towards those who have shown such swift and direct contempt for the voters.

Richard Fulton is an emeritus professor of political science.  

 

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