Nonpartisan Redistricting Experts and Citizen Reformers Denounce SJR38 Gerrymandering Plan

JEFFERSON CITY – National anti-gerrymandering experts joined Missouri reformers in denouncing the Missouri State Senate’s final passage of SJR38, a proposal that seeks to roll back redistricting reforms passed overwhelmingly by Missouri voters in 2018 — and put new language into the state constitution allowing lobbyists and political appointees to gerrymander maps in 2021.

SJR38 passed the State Senate tonight, despite bipartisan opposition from voters — and bipartisan opposition in the Senate chamber.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Overturn the will of 1.4 million Missourians who supported the Clean Missouri Amendment
  • Allow lobbyists and partisan political appointees to rig maps for their own interests in secretive backrooms.
  • Allow communities to be split up by political appointees
  • Remove the nonpartisan independence added to the state’s map-drawing process.
  • Dramatically weaken race equity standards.

“We can’t let a handful of politicians and lobbyists overturn the will of the people. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents came together in 2018 and voted for the nonpartisan redistricting reforms in Amendment 1 by an almost 2-to-1 margin,” said Rod Chapel, President of the NAACP Missouri State Conference. “SJR38 would not just reverse the reforms 62 percent of voters supported, they would drag Missouri even further back with new tricks to make redistricting more partisan, more secretive, and more unfair than ever before, resulting in some of the worst gerrymandering in the nation.”

“Missouri politicians continue to ignore the will of their voters, who supported fair maps by an almost 2-to-1 margin at the polls,” said Chris Lamar, Legal Counsel at Campaign Legal Center. “These gerrymandering plans proposed by self-interested politicians would overturn the will of the people, making it harder to achieve the independent redistricting process voters sought when they passed Amendment 1.”

“SJR38 would move Missouri in the wrong direction right before new districts are drawn in 2021. Like last year’s proposal, these changes would make the redistricting process easier to rig by removing independence and protections designed to deliver fairness,” said Yurij Rudensky, Redistricting Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “These aren’t reform because the public stands to gain nothing.”

“Whatever your opinion of the Clean Missouri initiative, SJR38 is a giant step backward,” said Justin Levit, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School. “It guts what the voters demanded; it puts the line-drawers back in the pockets of the politicians; it undermines protections for minority populations. And it adds constraints, but in the worst possible way, with artificial, abstract rules that only have teeth when they cut through the heart of real communities where real people live.”

“Voters in every state senate district approved Clean Missouri because they want fair maps and a stronger voice in government,” said Louise Wilkerson, League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis Co-President. “The resolutions introduced in both houses would drop Amendment 1’s independent demographer, hide the data used for the final maps and set a weaker race equity standard. Instead of improving our redistricting process after the 2020 Census, SJR38 would give political parties more power and allow an unprecedented level of racial and political gerrymandering.”