No On 3

No On 3

Aidan Phillips, Editor

On Nov. 3, Missouri voters will have the option to vote for a new constitutional amendment called Amendment 3. Amendment 3 is a bill meant to address gerrymandering and create more fair elections, proposed by Republican legislators. It would alter several rules about the drawing of congressional districts. It seems like a reasonable initiative at the surface, but it has drawn extreme criticism for being misleading, actually being designed to make gerrymandering easier, and diminish the representation of people of color in government.

The current policies of map drawing in Missouri were established by Amendment 1 in 2018, also known as the Clean Missouri Initiative. Amendment 1 passed with 62% of the vote and a majority of the vote in every county in Missouri, because voters agreed that it was too easy to gerrymander in Missouri. The way maps are drawn now is through a non-partisan demographer appointed by the state, who will draw maps and propose them to the state commissions on map redistricting. Redistricting must be based on: total population; in compliance with the United States Constitution and federal law; districts may not be drawn with the intent or result of negatively impacting racial minorities; districts will be drawn to achieve partisan fairness and secondarily, competitiveness; contiguity, so all parts of the district are connected; respecting county, municipal, and township boundaries; and compactness (keeping district lines close to its center). There can be up to three public hearings on the newly proposed congressional district map. After this, there is a vote among commissioners and the map will be approved unless 70% of commissioners vote to approve changes. Now, Amendment 3’s proposals will reverse this progress which voters vehemently supported. It will effectively make the districting process the same as it was before 2018.

Process and criteria prior to 2018 Process and criteria enacted by Amendment 1(2018) Proposed process and criteria by Amendment 3
House and senate bipartisan commissions draws state legislative districts Non-partisan state demographer draws state legislative districts and submits to commissions House and senate bipartisan commissions draws state legislative districts
70 percent of the commissioners approve the map to adopt it Demographer’s map adopted as is unless 70 percent of the commissioners approve changes 70 percent of the commissioners approve the map to adopt it
Population, other political subdivisions, and contiguous districts Added partisan fairness and competitiveness, which is calculated using the electoral performance index, to criteria Population, voter rights abridgment, contiguous districts, and simple shapes are given higher priority than partisan fairness and competitiveness

-Chart Summary from Ballotpedia


On top of this, Amendment 3 is being presented on the ballot and by its backers in bad faith. The ballot title is written as follows:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

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

-Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;

-Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.

-State governmental entities expect no cost or savings. Individual local governmental entities expect significant decreased revenues of a total unknown amount

Again, it seems like a reasonable bill on the surface. As written, it seeks to reduce the influence of special interests on politicians and reform congressional districting. However, there is important context to be added. Amendment 3 would ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators and employees, but it fails to mention that contributions are already capped at just $5. It would also reduce legislative campaign contributions, but only from $2,500 to $2,400. Also, this new reduction would only apply to state senators and not representatives. The first two sections would essentially change nothing. The third section states that the Governor-appointed commissions will be bipartisan, but it is impossible for a Governor-appointed commission to be truly bipartisan, because it is created by a partisan politician with their own political interests. Eliminating the non-partisan state demographer will create more opportunities for partisan political gain through gerrymandering.

The ballot also leaves out several changes the amendment will make to the process and criteria of districting, and these other changes are deeply concerning. It mentions that redistricting criteria will be changed, but it doesn’t mention what those changes are. The biggest change that is not mentioned on the ballot is that it will adjust criteria so that it will advantage eligible voters over all residents for the process of districting. Amendment 3 will change the Missouri constitution from stating “Districts shall be established on the basis of total population” to “Districts shall be as nearly equal as practicable in population and shall be drawn on the basis of one person, one vote” instead. The language of  “one person, one vote” is quite vague, but it means that eligible voters would be prioritized in counting the population for districting. What this would mean is that children under the age of 18 (the legal voting age) and non-citizen immigrants may not be counted equally, because it would be prioritizing voters rather than total population. Communities of color have much higher rates of child residents and non-citizen immigrants compared to white people in Missouri (21% of white people, 28% of Black people, 54% of Latinx people, and 54% of Asian Americans), so this amendment could significantly diminish the representation people of color have in Jefferson City. This goes directly against the districting guidelines which state that maps cannot in intent or result disadvantage racial minorities. Not only this, but it would mean their communities could receive less public resources due to having less of their true population be counted in districting. No other state in America does this, because it is imperative to count all residents in order to properly represent them in government. All residents are the constituents of an elected official. It has been in the Missouri constitution since 1875 that districting is based on total population. It would be a radical change to the districting process, and it is not even mentioned in the language used on the ballot.

Amendment 3 is an intentionally misleading bill that is meant to make it easier to gerrymander, despite backers saying it’s intentions are the opposite. It is also a clear voter suppression law which targets people of color. Even a Cole County judge said that the ballot language is “misleading, unfair, and insufficient.” It is simply an effort to suppress voters’ power and manipulate the political process for the gain of the dominant political party, right now being the GOP. If you are eligible to vote on Amendment 3 on Nov. 3, be sure to vote no.