Missouri voters dump never-used redistricting reforms

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FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2018 file photo, supporters of Missouri's redistricting ballot measure hold signs behind former state Sen. Bob Johnson as he serves as their spokesman during a press conference outside the Cole County Courthouse in Jefferson City, Mo .Two years after Missouri voters enacted a first-of-its-kind initiative intended to create partisan fairness in voting districts, they have changed their minds. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two years after Missouri voters enacted a first-of-its-kind initiative intended to create “partisan fairness” in voting districts, they have changed their minds.

Before the measure could be used, voters reversed key parts of it in Tuesday’s election. They opted instead to return to a method that will let commissions composed of Democratic and Republican loyalists redraw state legislative districts after census results are released.

The Missouri vote broke a string of nationwide electoral victories for redistricting reform advocates and opened the potential for Missouri to experiment with another nationally unique model — one that could exclude noncitizens from the population totals used in redistricting.

Some supporters of the 2018 initiative, known as Clean Missouri, asserted that voters were tricked into undercutting it by the Republican-led Legislature, which placed Amendment 3 on this year's ballot. The amendment passed with just 51% of the vote.

“I’m not sure that voters fully understood that they were in fact repealing what they had passed in 2018 rather than building on it,” said Yurij Rudensky, a redistricting attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

By contrast, some Republican lawmakers contend that voters were misled by the original measure.

“I don’t think there’s a problem with letting voters reconsider it,” said Republican state Sen. Dan Hegeman, who sponsored this year's measure. He said it returns redistricting to “a tried and true method."

Missouri's 2018 initiative had been part of a national movement aimed at combating partisan gerrymandering, which occurs when politicians draw voting districts to give themselves or their political parties an advantage in future elections.