Last year, Missouri voters overwhelmingly voted to approve a ballot referendum that would put the state’s legislative redistricting process in the hands of a nonpartisan official, among other lobbying and campaign finance reforms. Missouri Republicans, who have enjoyed unbroken control of the state legislature since George W. Bush’s first term, don’t love it. They hate it, in fact, so much, that they are now trying to find a way to not have to use it.
Before the initiative, which passed with 62 percent support, Missouri legislators handled their own redistricting process. This is insane, and also how it’s done in most states throughout the country. But not even two months after the election, Republican Gov. Mike Parson—who replaced the state’s scandal-ridden former Gov. Eric Greitens last year—called for repealing the initiative, which created a new, still-unfilled position called “state demographer” that would redraw legislative maps to make them fairer.
It appears Missouri Republicans agree. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Wednesday that Republicans in the state legislature are attempting to basically render the initiative useless:
In a maneuver engineered by Rep. Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, a proposal initially introduced to ban lobbyists from giving any gifts to lawmakers has been amended to include changes in the way the state draws its political map.
Gone would be a plan to use a nonpartisan state demographer to draw the boundaries of House and Senate districts. In its place, a panel of citizens appointed by legislative leaders would craft the maps that often determine which parties control the Legislature.
Plocher told the Post-Dispatch that the demographer position could be warped into a partisan one because the demographer would be appointed by the state auditor, an elected official. (The current state auditor, Nicole Gallloway, just so happens to be a Democrat.)
“I think they are going to sell it in a great political way, where it’s about getting rid of an unelected bureaucrat and putting what they call an independent bipartisan citizens commission,” Missouri state Rep. Peter Merideth told the Post-Dispatch. “They will market it to voters as if it is getting rid of gerrymandering, rather than restoring the ability for politicians to gerrymander.” According to the Post-Dispatch, the legislation could be heard in the full House as early as next week.
The Missouri GOP isn’t the only one actively trying to screw with voter-approved referendums. Utah requested and received approval from the Trump administration to install a more limited Medicaid expansion than one passed by voters last November, and after Florida voters approved a measure to re-enfranchise former felony offenders, Florida legislators are drafting a workaround that would force those people to pay all of their court fees and fines before being able to register to vote.
It’s almost as if the Republican Party hates democracy.