JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson brought an end to months of legislative acrimony Wednesday by signing off on a new congressional map for the state’s eight U.S. House districts.
The Republican governor, who could have called lawmakers into a special session last year to complete the task, said he had no regrets about letting the issue become the main focal point of the five-month session at the expense of letting other priorities fall by the wayside.
“I don’t think it would make any difference,” Parson told reporters at a press conference in his office. “It’s unfortunate that it took as long as it did. It’s never an easy process.”
The new map, which was approved by the Senate in their final act last week, will likely lead to the status quo in Missouri’s U.S. House delegation: six Republicans and two Democrats, shoring up U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner’s St. Louis County-based 2nd Congressional District for the GOP.
People are also reading…
“We’re happy we got it done and didn’t concede to the courts,” said Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who sponsored the measure in the House.
But, the late approval of the map has county election authorities scrambling to place voters in new districts ahead of the August primary.
St. Francois County Clerk Kevin Engler, a former member of the House and Senate, said an inability among some lawmakers to compromise put many of his fellow clerks in a tight spot.
“They waited way too long to finish the map. It was irresponsible,” Engler said Wednesday.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft pledged to help election officials prepare for the upcoming vote.
“We appreciate the governor signing the congressional redistricting maps. The secretary of state’s office is confident Missouri, as in the past, will have fair and accurate elections with timely results. We will continue our ongoing work with local election authorities to implement these required changes,” Ashcroft said.
A group of Republicans calling themselves the “Conservative Caucus” had sought an aggressive “7-1” gerrymander to send seven Republicans to the U.S. House. Democrats believed with their party winning more than 40% of the vote in recent elections, they should have a shot at winning three seats.
The political tussle over the map was the centerpiece of a contentious legislative session that ended last week. Lawmakers are charged with redrawing the state’s congressional district boundaries once every decade to account for changes in population.
Under the plan, the 1st Congressional District, held by Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, would reach farther into the Webster Groves area with a “peninsula” that places voters in the Maplewood, Richmond Heights and Shrewsbury areas in the 2nd District.
Bush faces a primary challenge from Sen. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis.
Wagner’s 2nd Congressional District is poised to stretch from mid and south St. Louis County west to Warren and Franklin counties.
Eastern St. Charles County would be placed in the 3rd Congressional District. About three-fourths of St. Charles County’s population will be placed in the 3rd.
St. Charles County Election Authority Director Kurt Bahr said his office was working “diligently and frantically” to update voters rolls to reflect the new boundaries.
“We’ll be working overtime all week, all next week and on and on,” Bahr said Wednesday.
A June 17 deadline looms for getting ballots to overseas and military voters.
And, Bahr said, he may have to print ballots on demand for people who come in to vote absentee.
“It became a real problem by the Legislature waiting until the last day,” said Bahr, a former member of the Missouri House.
By contrast, Rick Stream of the St. Louis County Election Board said a team of computer mapping experts spent four hours Saturday placing voters in the correct districts.
“We have everybody in the right district,” Stream said. “We’re going to be fine.”
Parson said he thinks the clerks will find a way to update the voter rolls in time for the election season.
“I’m confident they are going to get it done,” Parson said.
The governor’s approval likely shuts down at least three lawsuits that had been filed in anticipation of the Legislature failing to act on the map by the end of their session on Friday.
Among those was a federal lawsuit by Republican congressional candidate Paul Berry III, who is running in the 2nd Congressional District held by Wagner.
The legislation is House Bill 2909.
Updated at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 18.(tncms-asset)c9d6691c-d241-11ec-be0b-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)5cba6a36-d16a-11ec-a97f-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)f2330e2a-d1e6-11ec-b3cc-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)2fdbc254-cfbb-11ec-bbab-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)