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Judicial panel unveils tentative new map for Missouri Senate

Judicial panel unveils tentative new map for Missouri Senate

By DAVID A. LIEB Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judicial panel in charge of redrawing Missouri’s Senate districts released a tentative plan Monday, giving candidates and voters a look at new boundaries that could be used beginning later this year.

The proposed map comes after more than 30 candidates already have filed to run for Senate seat s in the August primary under district lines that have been in place for the past decade. The new map is based on population changes noted in the 2020 census and would be used for the next 10 years.

By releasing the tentative map now, candidates could still adjust their plans — if necessary — before the filing period ends on March 29. The judicial panel said it plans to formally file the new map Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office.

Missouri’s 34 Senate districts are being drawn by a judicial panel because Republicans and Democrats on a politically balanced citizens commission failed to agree on a plan in December. A separate, similar commission did adopt new state House districts.

Districts for the U.S. House are supposed to be drawn by state lawmakers, but lawsuits have been filed asking the courts to take over the task because lawmakers have been unable to agree on a plan.

Republicans currently hold a 24-10 edge over Democrats in the state Senate, and half of those seats — in even-numbered districts — are up for election this year.

The chamber’s political split is projected to remain the same under the tentative new map.

The 19th District, centered around Columbia, could flip from Republicans to Democrats, based on political voting patterns in previous elections. But the reconfigured 11th District, stretching from Kansas City to some of its eastern suburbs, could flip from Democrats to Republicans, according to the political data included in the judicial panel’s report.

The tentative plan from the judicial panel resembles a proposal put forth by Republicans in much of central, southern and northeastern Missouri. But the panel’s districts in northwest Missouri differ from both the Republican and Democratic plans that had been put forward by members of the unsuccessful citizens commission.

“It looks like there’s some substantive differences in Platte and Buchanan County and in St. Louis County in particular,” said Marc Ellinger, who had been the Republican chair of the Senate citizens commission.

The judicial panel’s plan splits Buchanan County into two Senate districts by combining the urban part of St. Joseph with suburban parts of Kansas City in neighboring Platte County.

Susan Montee, a St. Joseph resident who had been the Democratic vice chair of the Senate citizens commission, said she didn’t think Buchanan County should be split under constitutional guidelines.

“I’m a little surprised they did it, but there were a number of people advocating for that” during public testimony, Montee said.

Ten years ago, a Senate redistricting plan put forth by a judicial panel got struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court for improperly dividing some counties in violation of the state constitution. A second citizens commission then was appointed and adopted a map that remained in place for the past decade.