Originally posted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board on January 9, 2019
Gov. Mike Parson has made precious few missteps since taking over in June, and this is no time for him to mess up that record. He should rethink his suggestion of legislatively overriding the “Clean Missouri” ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by voters on Nov. 6.
The people have spoken, and if Parson or any other politician in Jefferson City proposes to ignore their will, they deserve whatever voter backlash that comes their way. Parson in particular should be mindful of his own short leash. He was not elected to the governor’s office but arrived there only by virtue of his predecessor’s badly skewed moral and ethical compass.
Parson promised a return to the straight and narrow path. First and foremost, that means upholding the will of the people. On Nov. 6, they voted overwhelmingly for Constitutional Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri ballot proposition. What Parson and others in the Republican majority don’t like is that Clean Missouri would revoke their party’s ability to gerrymander political districts in ways that effectively predetermine election outcomes and ensure one-party dominance.
Clean Missouri empowers the state demographer to map districts with emphasis on greater partisan fairness and competitiveness. Candidates would be forced not to rely on partisan affiliation as much as the power of their ideas and their ability to sway voters across the political divide.
It’s a formula designed to encourage greater centrism, which is the space most Missourians occupy on key social issues. On Nov. 6 ballot items where there was no political party affiliation attached to the issue, voters across the state rejected hard-right extremism, overwhelmingly supporting Clean Missouri, legalization of medical marijuana and a mandatory increase in the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.
Whether Parson or other Republicans don’t like the result isn’t the point. It’s whether they’re willing to respect the democratic process. A slippery slope toward dictatorship awaits anyone who believes in legislatively invalidating elections that don’t go their way.
They are sending ominous signs: “Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” Parson told The Associated Press last month. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”
Sen. Dave Schatz, now the Senate president pro tem, agrees: “I think it’s a major concern for this majority, in how that (Clean Missouri) is going to impact the future. And I do think those issues are going to have to be addressed there” with corrective legislative action.
Even some Democrats, such as state Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City, are expressing discomfort over the demographer’s new powers.
All seem united in their dirty desire to protect political fiefdoms over democracy. Missouri voters should let them know, loud and clear, that Clean Missouri means what it says.