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Redistricting Guest Commentary - KC Star Nov. 3, 2021

Published on 11/3/2021

Promote Fair Redistricting Process in Missouri

Redistricting has an extraordinary once-a-decade impact on the power of voters to direct the governance of Missouri and on the vitality of democracy in our state. In all 50 states, the League of Women Voters stresses the importance of transparency, accuracy, partisan fairness and maximum public input in the redistricting process.

I was one of several League members who testified at recent hearings of Missouri’s House and Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens’ Commissions. League members will also testify at the House commission’s Nov. 4 hearing in Jefferson City.

We are asking redistricting commissioners for a transparent process that uses total population data from the U.S. Census. As a nonprofit organization, we oppose racial and partisan gerrymandering. Maps can be drawn with more fair competitive districts that don’t give an unfair advantage to either political party.

I stressed in my testimony the importance of recognizing communities that share common interests. The League is part of the Fair Maps Missouri coalition that used citizen input to map 700 communities of interest in Missouri. Each map defines a geographic area in terms of common public policy interests shared by many who live there. We urge commissioners to give utmost consideration to plans being submitted by academic experts that prioritize keeping these communities intact.

According to the 2020 Census, African Americans continue to compose a significant proportion of the city of Kansas City, and Latinos represent a growing proportion of the population of Kansas City. Legislative district boundaries should be drawn which ensure that racial and language minorities share proportionally in the political process.

The redistricting process currently being undertaken by the city of Kansas City is ideal with respect to transparency and public participation. Proposed city council maps are made available prior to public hearings allowing for informed and meaningful feedback from community members.
Legislative redistricting commissions should allow time for public input on proposed maps prior to submission. In addition to the response of individual Missourians, innovative technology could ascertain evidence of partisan unfairness and signs of the gerrymandering of districts through cracking and packing of communities. Cutting-edge technology can now quickly evaluate the strengths and problems in district maps, and should be utilized by the commissions.

The sooner in the redistricting process that significant problems can be identified and ameliorated, the less likely a final map will need to be challenged in court.

Drawing maps that are based on public input and communities of interest and that aren’t gerrymandered is good for Missouri and good for Kansas City for the decade to come.

Mary Lindsay, Kansas City
a member of LWVMO’s Fair Redistricting Committee