Originally printed in the Bolivar Herald-Free Press on October 31, 2018:

Amendment 1 (Campaign finance, ethics reform) — Qualified yes

Amendment 1, after clearing weeks of legal challenges, will ask Missouri voters to approve sweeping political and legislative changes.

The most controversial of these involves removing the power to draw legislative district maps from legislators and placing it in the hands of a nonpartisan demographer, with changes still subject to potential overrule by senate and house commissions.

For the first time, “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” would be factors in the shaping of those districts.

Opponents of the amendment have gone so far as to invoke the negative term “gerrymandering” when describing the initiative. But, by definition, “gerrymandering” means redrawing districts in such a way to give one political party or group an advantage. This initiative seeks to do just the opposite.

Opponents further argue that the fairness and competitiveness criteria would mean (1) some odd-shaped districts and (2) challenges for legislators trying to represent a more diverse — both in terms of geography, in some cases, and in terms of partisanship.

A look at Missouri’s existing district map may lead some to consider the first point moot. And the initiative’s language includes the requirement that districts include “contiguous territory” and be “as compact” as possible. It also stipulates areas meeting only at “the points of adjoining corners” are not “contiguous.”

It also says the number of counties and cities divided should be “as small as possible.”

And as for the latter argument, that is indeed the entire point — to move toward districts where ideas, and not partisanship, are king.

Fairness in the amendment is defined as parties being “able to translate their popular support into legislative representation with approximately equal efficiency” and would be calculated by comparing the number of wasted votes — votes above and below the 50-percent majority threshold — for each party. The goal is to have the difference between each party’s wasted votes as close to zero as is “practicable.”

Competitiveness is defined as both parties’ legislative representation being “substantially and similarly responsive to shifts in the electorate’s preferences.”

And the measure, which has received bipartisan support, would also mean reduced campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates, a $5-cap on lobbyist gifts, prohibition of fundraising on state property and the subjection of legislative records and proceedings to Missouri open records law.

Those inclusions are what really tip the scale for us.

Keep in mind, as an amendment, this initiative if passed could not be reversed by lawmakers.