In a close statewide vote, Missouri Amendment Three passed 51% to 48%, but now the controversy continues on what exactly some of the wording in the amendment means

So exactly what does “One Person, One Vote,” Redistricting look like and why does it matter? Those are questions the Missouri General Assembly may decide to take up in 2021 as they begin the process of drawing new lines as part of the state’s required decennial redistricting.

Amendment 3 was confusing on its face. The drafters purposely drafted the amendment’s wording in a manner that “buried” the meat. Instead of leading with wording about the amendment’s real goal of changing the process for redrawing the state’s district boundaries, the amendment began with two likeable proposals.

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

• Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;

• Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits…”

Then came the meat….

• “Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 …”

In 2018, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, which put redistricting in the hands of a non-partisan state demographer. Representatives of Clean Missouri, a group that supported Amendment 1 two years ago, asked voters to turn down Amendment 3 this year, saying it protects incumbents and encourages gerrymandering.

Amendment 1 gave responsibility for drawing state legislative districts to a nonpartisan state demographer. Amendment 3 gives responsibility for drawing state legislative districts to a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Mike Parson.

In addition, the full legislation’s text says redistricting will be based on “one person, one vote,” which both sides of the issue are interpreting to mean two different things. Clean Missouri says “one person, one vote,” means only eligible voters will be counted instead of the total population when redrawing districts.

In the 2018 wording, Amendment 1 changed “one person, one vote” to “total population.” In Amendment 3, the bill’s sponsors say they were just changing the wording back to what it was before, “0ne person, one vote.” At least that’s what they say some of the time.

In a Senate debate on Jan. 29, Republican Sen. Dan Hegeman responded to a question about the wording of “one person, one vote.” He said: “The people that are able to vote are the people that are counted.”

This sounds like only citizens age 18 and up will be counted. In an email to the online website, Hegeman said this is not the case. This time Hegeman said children would only be excluded from the redistricting count if the General Assembly chose to interpret the law as eligible voters.

Republican supporters of the bill are split, with some saying the wording just goes back to previous wording used in the state’s redistricting rules and then, everyone was counted. However, another group of supporters are saying yes, the phrase means only voters would be considered in redistricting.

If the decision was made to only count eligible voters, Missouri would be the first state in the country to take that position.

Only counting eligible voters leaves out children under 18 and noncitizens of Missouri who make up nearly a quarter of the population. In addition, 28% of Black Missourians are children and 36% of Latinx Missourians are children, which is a large portion of representation for Missourians of color who would not be counted.

This would lead to an advantage for Republicans, with more older, White citizens being represented in the count.

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