Rolla Daily News: Efforts to change Clean Missouri halted in final week of session

JEFFERSON CITY —Two pieces of legislation that would have changed the Clean Missouri amendment will not make it to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk this year.

Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, won approval from 62 percent of voters in November. Among other changes within the amendment, Clean Missouri overhauls the state’s redistricting process by putting a nonpartisan state demographer in charge of drawing the legislative districts.

A proposal from Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, would instead keep the current redistricting process, in which separate House and Senate committees decide how to draw district lines.

Under the proposal, the map-drawing question would be put back on the ballot in the 2020 election. Proponents say citizens did not know what they were voting for last year.

Plocher’s proposal, which won approval in the House last month, must make it out of the Senate Fiscal Oversight committee before it can be discussed on the floor. However, the committee voted against passing the proposal by a 2-2 vote Monday morning.

Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, who chairs the committee, declined to comment Monday afternoon.

Another effort that would have weakened another part of Clean Missouri ran out of steam.

Clean Missouri makes legislative records and proceedings subject to the state’s open records law, known as the Sunshine Law. The amendment, which was added when the House approved the bill in February, would keep lawmakers’ records from being public if they relate to “the deliberative decision-making process” of the legislature. Critics have said the amendment would keep a wide range of records out of public view.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, sponsored the original bill, which extends some of the ethics restrictions included in Clean Missouri to local government officials. He conceded early in the week that it was unlikely the Senate will vote on the bill, or the Sunshine Law amendment, before the session concludes Friday.

“The Senate has always had less appetite for ethics bill than the House unfortunately,” Dogan said. “This is especially frustrating because the voters spoke with Clean Missouri and said they wanted to have gifts limits, lobbyists limits and revolving-door limits, and none of those three things applies to local government officials.”

Dogan said he plans to file the same legislation next year without the amendment.

https://www.therolladailynews.com/news/20190517/efforts-to-change-clean-missouri-halted-in-final-week-of-session
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Gerrymandering Plan Defeated for 2019 Session

Jefferson City politicians’ gerrymandering plan (HJR48) was defeated this week in the State Senate after a massive citizen response to defend the fair map requirements in Amendment 1 that passed in a landslide in November.The Clean Missouri coalition released the following statement today regarding the defeat of HJR48 and passage of SB213:

“More than 300,000 Missourians signed petitions to put Amendment 1 on the ballot, and then 1,469,093 voted to put the rules for maps maps and a more ethical  legislature into our state constitution. We’ve tracked more than 10,000 phone calls and messages into the State Capitol about politicians’ attempts to undo their mandate — and we know that’s just a fraction of what citizens have been doing in the past few weeks.

“We are glad to see the HJR48 gerrymandering plan set aside — but we know the lobbyists and politicians who pushed for this outrageous proposal aren’t giving up.

“We also know the massive bipartisan coalition that fought for two years to pass redistricting and ethics reforms aren’t going to give up in their fight for a responsive, accountable, and transparent state government.

“We are pleased to see SB213 sent to Governor Parson, which will establish good rules for the nonpartisan state demographer and empower citizens to be more engaged in the upcoming redistricting process. Voters have demanded an open and fair map creation process, and SB213 is a good next step to implementing what voters have approved.”

If HJR48 had been passed into law:

  • Fair map rules would have been gutted. The clear and transparent criteria in the constitution requiring fair maps and protecting the voting power of communities of color would have been gutted or dramatically weakened.
  • Lobbyists and political appointees would have free reign to gerrymandering maps. A huge ‘compactness’ loophole would have allowed lobbyists and political appointees to split communities and gerrymander maps.
  • Redistricting would happen in secretive back rooms. The redistricting process would have become more secretive, and would have happened in back rooms instead of in public view.
  • The process would have been even more political than it has been in the past. Independence added to process with nonpartisan state demographer role would be gone, and state political parties would be given even more control for future redistricting processes.

HJR48 was forced through the State House despite bipartisan opposition, and championed by Sen. Caleb Rowden in the State Senate. It was defeated this week in the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee, however.

Rules for fair state legislative maps in our state constitution right now:

  • ensure no party will have an unfair advantage in future state legislative map plans
  • require data used in the crafting of draft maps to be made public
  • protect the voting power of communities of color against vote dilution, and
  • limit the influence of lobbyists and political appointees who have run the process in past redistricting cycles.


The Clean Missouri coalition remains committed to defending fair maps mandate passed by 1.47MM Missourians.

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Will Caleb Rowden uphold the people’s vote?

Originally posted in the Columbia Tribune on May 9, 2019.

I voted for and was a canvasser for state Sen. Caleb Rowden. I knocked on doors for him because I believed that he would be an effective state senator who would listen to his constituents and work to make our lives better.

I collected signatures, knocked on doors and eventually voted for Amendment 1 (Clean Missouri) and Proposition B (Raise Up Missouri). I worked to put ethics reform, redistricting reform and a higher minimum wage on the ballot because I want an economy and democracy that work for working people like myself. I talked to Boone County voters just like me — Republicans, Democrats and Independents – because I believe that being paid a living wage and reducing the influence of lobbyists is a bipartisan issue. They agreed, and Amendment 1 and Prop B passed overwhelmingly in Boone County.

I have attempted to meet with Rowden so I could tell him how I feel about these issues. I was told to come to Jefferson City, so I traveled there to try to find him, but was not successful. It is frustrating how difficult it is for us regular folk to get time with our elected officials. That is why Clean Missouri is so important.

I hope Rowden makes the right choice and does not undermine the vote of 1.4 million Missourians who voted for these important issues, including an overwhelming majority of his constituents. I am inclined to vote for Rowden again, only if he respects my vote and my neighbors’ votes on these two critical issues. As the legislative session winds up, I will be watching.

Troy Jones,

Boone Country

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Jeff City News Tribune: Lawmakers, leave Clean Missouri alone

Contact your senator here.

Originally posted in the Jeff City News Tribune on April 4, 2019.

Missouri lawmakers still are working feverishly to dismantle changes voters made to the state Constitution to clean up politics in Jefferson City.

The House on Monday sent the Senate a proposed constitutional amendment that would erase parts of Clean Missouri, passed by 62 percent of voters last November. Among other things, Clean Missouri:

• Changed the process used to redraw state House and Senate district boundaries every 10 years, after the federal census is finished. It created the post of “nonpartisan state demographer” — to be chosen by the state auditor from applications — to oversee the redistricting process.

• Reduced the limits on campaign contributions that candidates for state Legislature can accept from individuals or groups.

• Limited the gifts state lawmakers and their employees can accept from paid lobbyists to items that cost $5 or less.

• Prohibited lawmakers and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists for a two-year period after the lawmaker leaves office.

• Prohibited political fundraising on state property by candidates for, or members of, the Legislature.

• Required legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public under the Sunshine Law.

Republicans are the driving force behind the attempt to undo voters’ will. For them, the hardest change to swallow is the first — the change to the House/Senate redistricting process.

Their proposed amendment would change the criteria for drawing new legislative districts. It would eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer’s position created by Amendment 1, as well as the requirement that the demographer draw redistricting maps using mathematical formulas based on partisan fairness and competitiveness.

Missouri Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis County, sponsored the bill, arguing it more closely follows the state Constitution and federal law than Clean Missouri. But he hasn’t shown that Clean Missouri violated either.

Politicians seem to praise voters as being well-informed (especially when voting for them), but ill-informed if they approve something that’s distasteful to them.

Plocher has said his “bipartisan committee” will be better than “a single bureaucrat whose appointment will be controlled by a partisan elected official” to draw the maps.

“This removes the danger of a single redistricting czar under the sway, if not outright control, of one political party or set of special interest,” he said.

But before Clean Missouri, the Constitution required bipartisan commissions to redraw the state legislative districts, with a fall-back to six appeals court judges if the commissions failed to do their work.

For most of the last three decades, the judges — not the commissions — drew the maps, because the commissions didn’t work.

Lawmakers should respect voters’ will and leave Clean Missouri alone.

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National experts condemn House gerrymandering proposal

New House plan would gut constitutional requirements for fairness, transparency and independence in redistricting

JEFFERSON CITY – National experts on nonpartisan redistricting policy joined Missouri citizens in condemning the gerrymandering proposal moving in the Missouri House that would roll back reforms passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2018.

“Missouri politicians should listen to their voters, who supported fair maps by an almost 2-to-1 margin in November,” said Chris Lamar, legal counsel, redistricting, at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “This stealth gerrymandering plan 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.”

“HJR 48 is a big step backwards from the fair map reforms overwhelmingly passed by Missouri voters last November,” said Michael Li, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “In place of the strong community-focused rules approved by voters, it would require splitting apart towns and cities and make partisan fairness subordinate to artificial and abstract notions of compactness. This is the exact opposite of good reform.”

New language for House Joint Resolution 48 was introduced and passed last week in committee without a thorough vetting or review. It would:

  • Overturn the will of 1.4 million Missourians who supported the Clean Missouri Amendment,
  • Allow lobbyists and partisan political appointees to gerrymander maps to advance their own interests,
  • Allow communities to be split up by political appointees in the name of ‘compact’ districts,
  • Eliminate the requirement that data used for map drafting be made open to the public, and
  • Remove the nonpartisan independence added to the state’s map-drawing process.

In November 2018, Missourians overwhelmingly supported a new, fair redistricting process that took away the influence of lobbyists and insiders when crafting new legislative maps. In its place, 1,469,093 voters enacted a new system with checks and balances to create districts where candidates will have to work hard to earn their votes, where lobbyists and political insiders can no longer rig the system, and to ensure that no political party gets an unfair advantage in any new maps.

Amendment 1 endorsements in 2018 included:

  • Action St. Louis
  • A. Philip Randolph Institute – St. Louis Chapter
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Common Cause
  • Communities Creating Opportunity
  • DEMOS
  • The League of Women Voters
  • Metropolitan Congregations United
  • Missouri AFL-CIO
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys
  • Missouri Faith Voices
  • Missouri Jobs With Justice
  • Missouri NEA
  • MORE2
  • Organization for Black Struggle
  • NAACP Missouri State Conference
  • Service Employees International Union

Amendment 1 was also endorsed by Rev. Starsky Wilson, Rev. Dr. Rodney E. Williams, Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Pastor Michael Brooks, Rev. Tex Sample, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, the St. Louis American and Kansas City Call.

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Citizens condemn politicians’ stealth gerrymandering proposal

A New House plan would gut constitutional requirements for fairness, transparency and independence in redistricting.

JEFFERSON CITY – Good government groups joined Missourians from both parties today in condemning a stealth gerrymandering proposal that would roll back redistricting reforms passed overwhelmingly by Missouri voters in 2018.

A new Committee Substitute for House Joint Resolutions 48, 46 and 47 was introduced and passed this week in the House General Laws Committee without a thorough vetting or review. It would:

  • Overturn the will of 1.4 million Missourians, who supported the Clean Missouri Amendment.
  • Allow lobbyists and partisan political appointees to gerrymander maps to advance their own interests.
  • Allow communities to be split up by political appointees in the name of ‘compact’ districts.
  • Eliminate the requirement that data used for map drafting be made open to the public.
  • Remove the nonpartisan independence added to the state’s map-drawing process.

“Legislators should respect the people of Missouri who voted overwhelmingly to clean up Missouri politics,” says Nancy Miller, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis. “This new proposal is designed by politicians to eliminate the rules voters just added to the state constitution to require fair legislative district maps.”

“Missourians just passed a new law to stop gerrymandering in November, by an almost two to one margin,” said Bob Johnson, a Lee’s Summit Republican who previously served in the General Assembly. “Their mandate from more than 1.4 million Missourians was clear: fair and competitive maps.”

“We can’t let a few politicians and lobbyists overturn the will of the people,” said Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP. “Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Missourians from all walks of life supported Amendment 1 because it got us started cleaning up Missouri politics, and gives everyday citizens more of a voice in our state government.”

In November 2018, Missourians overwhelmingly supported a new, fair redistricting process that took away the influence of lobbyists and insiders when crafting new legislative maps. In its place, 1,469,093 voters enacted a new system with checks and balances to create districts where candidates will have to work hard to earn their votes, where lobbyists and political insiders can no longer rig the system, and to ensure that no political party gets an unfair advantage in any new maps.

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Effort to scale back or eliminate Clean Missouri faces opposition

Originally posted in the Missourian on April 4, 2019.

A House committee debated three resolutions Tuesday that would repeal part — or all — of the Clean Missouri.

Critics said lawmakers should give the recently approved constitutional amendment a chance and questioned whether they were showing distrust in the will of the people.

Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri initiative passed by voters in November, was promoted as a way to strengthen transparency within Missouri government. The amendment includes rules on a “cooling off” period between when lawmaker can leave the General Assembly and become a lobbyist, restricts lobbyist expenditures to $5 or less and employs a nonpartisan demographer for redistricting to replace a previous bipartisan committee, among other measures.

House Joint Resolution 46 would strengthen certain elements — extending the lobbying cooling off period and banning all gifts from lobbyists — but it would eliminate the state demographer’s involvement in redistricting and reinstate what its sponsor described as a bipartisan process.

HJR 47 creates a list of priorities for redistricting. The bill makes equal population, compactness and contiguity the top priorities when creating new districts. In contrast, Amendment 1 also prioritized partisan fairness and competitiveness.

Multiple members of the General Laws Committee questioned the intentions behind the resolutions and said they created a sense that lawmakers know better than their constituents.

“I would say that those of us that represent districts that are 50-50ish, we’re not scared of running in a district put together by a demographer,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Jefferson City. “So I’m trying to understand why there’s such fear from those that are trying to undo the will of the voters to run in truly competitive districts?”

HJR 47’s sponsor, Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, said he wanted to give voters more choice about Clean Missouri.

“What I can tell you is the voters were faced with a binary choice in the previous election.” Trent said.

Both HJR 46 and 47 would make voters decide on multiple aspects of transparency at once, a concern many had about Amendment 1 in the first place. This issue was contentious enough that lawmakers went to the Cole County Circuit Court, where it was ruled unconstitutional. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals reversed the decision and ruled the ballot initiative was constitutional.

The committee also discussed HJR 57, which would repeal Clean Missouri completely.

Rep. Jeff Pogue, R-Salem, said he wanted people to consider some of the “unintended consequences” of Clean Missouri. He did not elaborate.

Wes Korfe, on behalf of the Sierra Club in St. Louis, opposed all three resolutions. He said he has knocked on doors, collected signatures supporting Amendment 1 and spoke with people in the community who “resoundingly” do not want legislators drawing their own districts.

“So far none of these (resolutions) being heard in this hearing or today address that concern, and that’s a problem because no matter how strong your code of ethics there’s always going to be an incentive to draw districts that favor yourselves,” Korfe said.

Clark Brown, with the Service Employees International Union, also opposes the resolutions.

“(SEIU) thinks this legislation is unnecessary. We think it’s overriding and not listening to voters. Frankly, this is a position to say, ‘We know better than what voters made a decision on,’” Brown said.

Brown says the previous districting process had been “wild.”

“Mostly because we see your maps on the walls — this is crazy. I see salamander shaped districts, and this system is not right.”

Nimrod Chapel president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, said lawmakers shouldn’t “undo the will of the people.”

“The people read it. Okay? They picked what they wanted, and they voted for it,” he said.

Rather than relying on Clean Missouri, Pogue advocated for lawmakers to be transparent about their donors.

“I heard a commentator say ‘maybe politicians should be like NASCAR drivers, you know, they have all their sponsors on their sleeve,’” Pogue said.

All three proposals would require voter approval before taking effect.

Jacob Cavaiani of KOMU contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, horvitm@missouri.edu.

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Keep Missouri clean: Don’t tamper with Amendment 1

Originally posted in the Marshfield Mail on March 30, 2019.

A landslide. That’s the only way to describe the outcome of the Clean Missouri ballot issue in November. It won 82 of the 116 counties in the state, including a majority of heavily Republican counties. It’s clear that the people of Missouri believe our state government needs to be more transparent, and that fairness and competition should be the foundation of our elections.

Now some lawmakers, including Governor Parson, are taking steps to overturn what the voters have said they want. Keep in mind: Amendment 1 is a change to our state’s Constitution, not merely a change to state law. A Constitutional amendment has never been reversed in our state.

Politicians seem to be disregarding the will of the people not on ideological grounds, but simply because Amendment 1 requires them to put ethics first, and to support a new way of drawing district maps that ensures fair and competitive races. About 90 percent of races under the current district maps have not been competitive.

Amendment 1 came to voters as a citizen-driven initiative because lawmakers were unwilling to make these changes themselves. Again and again, they voted down proposals to limit the influence of lobbyists were voted down. Over and over, incumbents and their parties depended on closed-door meetings to draw district maps. After the 2010 census, politicians, lobbyists and judges were the ones to draw the current maps. These maps protect incumbents and their parties.

Amendment 1 changes this. It prioritizes transparency and repairs the process of drawing election maps.

For decades, the League of Women Voters has fought for fair district maps and equal voting rights for all. We studied Clean Missouri’s proposal before it was put on the ballot. We supported Amendment 1 because it strengthens Missouri’s elected government. Like President Woodrow Wilson, we believe, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”Now we are adding our voice to the many who are asking lawmakers to remember: You are not self-employed. We sent you to Jefferson City. Please respect us.

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Supreme Court again considers partisan gerrymandering, but voters are not waiting

Originally posted in the Washington Post on March 23, 2019.

Disappointed with the election results but not ready to give up on politics, Katie Fahey sent out the modern equivalent of a message-in-a-bottle on Nov. 10, 2016.

“I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan,” she typed in a Facebook post. “If you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.” She added a smiley face emoji and left for work.

It turned out that hundreds of people were interested.

They grew to more than 425,000 people who signed a ballot petition to amend the state constitution.

They grew to more than 2.5 million people who on Election Day 2018 took away the power of politicians to draw districts that helped themselves and their political parties, and put it in the hands of a commission of ordinary citizens.

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“Voters Not Politicians” made Michigan one of five states in 2018 — Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Utah the others — where voters reined in partisan gerrymandering.

It is an issue that has vexed the Supreme Court, and it returns to the justices this week in cases from North Carolina and Maryland. The court has never found that a state’s redistricting plan was so skewed by politics that it violated the constitutional rights of voters, and again last term it passed up the opportunity.

Referendums in 2018 showed that voters are tired of waiting.

“This is another instance, like Citizens United, where the court is wildly out of step with public opinion,” said Josh Silver, co-founder of a nonprofit group called RepresentUs. He was referring to Citizens United v. FEC , the court’s 2010 decision that expanded the role of corporate and union spending in elections.

“The public does not want the game rigged in favor of either party.”

Groups such as Silver’s and organic organizations like the one started by Fahey are making democracy issues such as gerrymandering and voting rights — well, if not sexy, at least wonkishly attractive.

An anti-gerrymandering documentary, “Slay the Dragon,” will make its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. A 12-minute tutorial on the subject by RepresentUs is currently “crushing” social media, Silver said.

It features one of his board members, Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, giving a tutorial on redistricting. Silver said it has been watched more than a half-million times on YouTube, viewed 5.8 million times on Facebook “and millions of more times on Instagram,” he said.

Fahey said that partisan gerrymandering just struck a nerve with voters.

“Being able to intentionally target someone based on what political party they are voting for and trying to make their vote count more, or less, should be illegal,” she said in a recent interview. “I think it goes against a lot of principles, such as one person one vote or even just the intentions behind representational democracy.

“Legally I’m no expert, but on Nov. 6, I saw millions of people saying we are sick of being targeted that way.”

But, again, the Supreme Court may stand in the way.

The court sidestepped the issue last term, finding that those challenging a Wisconsin plan drawn by Republicans did not have the legal standing to bring the case and that the Maryland plan drawn by Democrats was not yet ripe for a challenge.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. worried during arguments in those cases that having to referee such partisan fights would put the Supreme Court into an untenable position,

“We will have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win,” he said.

And even more troubling for those who favor independent commissions: It’s no longer clear there is a majority on the Supreme Court that believes such an idea is constitutional, when it come to drawing congressional districts.

In 2015, the court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of Arizona’s redistricting commission, one of the first in which voters took away from the legislature the sole power to draw congressional lines.

The majority was made up of the court’s liberals along with now-retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. And it came over a vehement dissent from Roberts and the court’s other conservatives.

Roberts said it violated the Constitution’s command that “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

He accused the majority of using a “magic trick” to impose its policy preferences.

“No matter how concerned we may be about partisanship in redistricting, this court has no power to gerrymander the Constitution,” Roberts wrote.

The grass-roots effort in Michigan

Fahey is only half joking when she says her motivation was dreading Thanksgiving.

She supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Her parents decided to give Donald Trump a try, and other family members split as well.

Instead of a round of “you-voted-for-this-person-you’re-evil” finger-pointing, Fahey thought she could build on the energy she saw when her usually nonpolitical family members debated the health-care and child-care policies of Clinton, Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders at a birthday party.

“I thought that Bernie Sanders’s ‘political revolution,’ and Donald Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ messages actually had a lot in common,” said Fahey, who at the time was a 27-year-old working at a recycling nonprofit.

“One of the reasons we’re so frustrated with politics is that there are a lot of systemic reasons that it’s not working for us. It’s just infuriating if you pay attention to it.”

Her Facebook posting tapped into that 2016 energy. It was shared and shared some more, and a fledgling movement was formed. To find out what everyone thought should be done about gerrymandering, the group held 33 town hall meetings in 33 days.

They realized their agreed-upon solution — a commission of ordinary citizens — would never get the legislature’s approval. So the only route was through a ballot initiative.

That would require gathering 315,000 signatures in six months. A retired math teacher who had joined the effort figured out a formula for reaching the goal, and the group eventually secured more than 425,000. Homemade clipboards for volunteers reduced the costs, and Fahey’s Trump-supporting parents joined the effort.

Kathy Wang, a University of Michigan law professor who became part of the campaign and is now the board president of Voters Not Politicians, said the publicity of the Supreme Court challenges on partisan gerrymandering had raised the issue’s profile.

And the water crisis in Flint, the state’s troubles with its education system and other issues made the state a ripe environment, said Elizabeth Battiste, the group’s communications consultant.

“Michigan is such a pure example of how government can fail so many people,” she said. “There was a sense of learned hopelessness and such a distrust of the system.”

Battiste added: “I think our name just kind of helped remind people every single day what we were about. We’re not the Democratic Party, we’re not the Republican Party, we’re like, the voters. We want something that works for us.”

The proposal survived a challenge in the Michigan Supreme Court that it would make too radical a change to the state constitution. Voters then approved it with 61 percent of the vote.

The group eventually raised more than $16 million, about $12 million of which came from liberal-leaning organizations outside the state. “You can’t crowdsource TV ads,” Fahey said, adding that she and the group’s founders insisted no strings be attached to the money. She remained the campaign manager for the effort.

But it has led to the perception that the recent movement against partisan gerrymandering is sparked by liberals and Democrats. Because Republicans controlled most state legislatures after the last census, they benefited from the map drawing.

But Fahey and Wang say the result of their efforts is nonpartisan. It creates a 13-member commission to draw legislative and congressional lines after the 2020 Census: four Republicans, four Democrats and five people who don’t identify with either party. It bars partisan officeholders, their employees and family members, lobbyists and others with ties to the current system. It forbids creating districts that help one party over the other, or incumbents.

A group of 200 potential commission members will be assembled, and partisan legislative leaders will be allowed to strike 10 percent they think might have ulterior motives.

“Use the legislators for what they’re good at,” said Cynthia Dai of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, who along with a colleague recently met with Wang and others implementing the plan. “Opposition research.”

Each state that approved a referendum in 2018 took a different approach. Ohio, for instance, has a greater role for state legislators but attempts to keep them from passing maps by party-line votes. Missouri will leave drawing legislative districts to a “nonpartisan state demographer.”

All the redistricting wins in 2018 were in states where citizen initiatives are an option. But in the majority of states, voters are not allowed to make changes without the legislature’s approval, which underscores the importance of the Supreme Court cases being argued this week.

Silver said the votes in 2018 have created momentum. “We’re seeing possible ballot measures in Arkansas and Oklahoma in 2020,” he said. “We’re seeing very promising activity in Virginia, the beginnings of what might be a legislative movement in Pennsylvania and Maryland. I think the map continues to grow.”

And, perhaps, that will have an impact at the Supreme Court, he said.

“Despite justices’ desire to argue the opposite, the court is swayed by public opinion,” Silver said. “And our job is showing the voice of the American people — liberal, conservative and in-between — in support of common-sense democracy reforms.”

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Movement toward less partisan political maps gains momentum

Originally posted in Associated Press on March 21, 2019.

Frustrated by partisan gerrymandering, voters in a growing number of states have taken the pen and computer away from lawmakers who have traditionally drawn U.S. House and state legislative districts and instead entrusted that responsibility to others.

In the past decade, eight states have overhauled their redistricting procedures to lessen the potential of partisan manipulation, including four that adopted ballot measures last fall. More could consider redistricting changes during the 2020 elections — the last before the U.S. Census initiates another round of mapmaking for over 400 U.S. House seats and nearly 7,400 state legislative seats.

The current movement began in California for the 2010 Census, when voters approved ballot initiatives creating an independent citizens’ commission to handle redistricting. Measures touted as redistricting reforms also have passed in Florida, New York, Ohio and — most recently— in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah.

In Ohio, the effort was bipartisan. Republicans joined with Democrats to back a pair of successful ballot measures that will require minority-party support to enact new congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade.

Ohio’s congressional delegation has remained at 12 Republicans and four Democrats ever since GOP officials redrew the maps after the 2010 Census, a 75-25 percent tilt that is out of line with the statewide vote for the two major parties. In November, Republican congressional candidates in Ohio won 52 percent of that vote while Democrats won 48 percent.

The Associated Press used a so-called “efficiency gap” test to analyze the 2018 elections. It’s one of the same analytical tools cited in a North Carolina gerrymandering case for which the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Tuesday. The test showed Ohio’s pro-Republican leaning ranked just behind North Carolina’s in the 2018 congressional elections, and its state House districts also showed a GOP advantage.

“We’ve been living under that rigged system for the entire decade,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

Yet one of the supporters of Ohio’s new redistricting procedures is Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who worked as a state senator to refer the measures to the ballot. LaRose said he hopes the new process leads to more competitive elections — even if that puts Republicans at risk of losing seats.

“I also see this in some ways as tough love for my party,” LaRose said. “I believe that Republican candidates are likely to win based on their ideas and based on the quality of their solutions for governing. But I think that when we rely on something other than that to win an election, it weakens us.”

Voters in Missouri went a step further last fall, becoming the first state to insert a version of the efficiency gap test into its constitution. Under the new measure, a nonpartisan state demographer will use the 2020 Census data to draw districts for the state House and Senate that achieve “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.”

The Missouri measure will not apply to congressional districts, which will continue to be drawn by the Legislature, currently controlled by Republicans.

Republicans have maintained a 6-2 advantage over Democrats in Missouri’s congressional delegation ever since the current districts were enacted in 2011, when a few Democrats joined with Republican lawmakers to override a veto by the Democratic governor.

The AP analysis shows that Missouri Republicans won one more congressional seat than would have been expected in 2018 based on their average share of the votes. That swing district was in suburban St. Louis, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner withstood a close challenge from Democrat Cort VanOstran.

Though he acknowledged shortfalls in fundraising and name identification, VanOstran said: “I think that Missouri is a victim of gerrymandering.”

The AP’s efficiency gap analysis shows California Democrats won four more congressional seats than would have been expected based on their district average share of the vote in the 2018 elections. That helped boost Democrats’ overwhelming majority in California’s congressional delegation to 46-7 over Republicans. The AP’s analysis showed California had a more neutral result when Democrats won a 39-14 majority over Republicans in the 2016 elections.

“There’s no doubt that the commission produced a map that tilts a little bit Democratic,” said Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California who developed the efficiency gap model. But “looking at average results over time, it’s not consistently Democratic. It flips around; it’s variable in that sense.”

Other states that use independent or bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative or congressional districts include Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey and Washington. In Iowa, nonpartisan legislative staff create the redistricting maps, which then go to the Legislature for an up-or-down vote.

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