Louise Wilkerson and John Bowman

In the last election, voters in every state senate district approved Amendment 1 – also known as Clean Missouri – to increase fairness, accountability, integrity and transparency in Missouri politics. Thanks to Clean Missouri, our state constitution now includes nonpartisan redistricting reforms that create fair legislative district maps and a fair redistricting process that will ensure our elected officials listen to their  voters – not just lobbyists and partisan operatives.

Clean Missouri enshrined the Voting Rights Act in the Missouri Constitution and added strong language protecting the voting power of communities of color. The Brennan Center for Justice, St. Louis County NAACP, Missouri NAACP State Conference, Action St. Louis, Organization for Black Struggle, League of Women Voters, and many other groups supported Amendment 1 because it made racial fairness central to the drawing of legislative districts.

The St. Louis County NAACP, Missouri NAACP State Conference and League of Women Voters of Missouri reviewed Amendment 1 carefully before endorsing it. Our members said they wanted fair maps drawn after each census where every vote would count.

Sadly, some politicians and lobbyists in Jefferson City do not want fair district maps and believe that only certain people should count. Resolutions have been fast-tracked in both chambers of our state legislature to replace Amendment 1’s reforms with a less transparent process that would allow extreme partisan gerrymandering and would weaken the strong protections for voters of color that are in our constitution now.

These dangerous new schemes would also eliminate the independence and transparency added to the constitution by voters, give state political parties new powers to rig maps in the future, and take away our rights to challenge unfair maps in court.

It gets worse. The gerrymandering plans moving in the legislature would open the door to not counting everyone in future maps, cutting out children and non-citizens from the state's population for purposes of redistricting. This is part of a devious long-term national strategy to further divide our country and undermine the principles of representative democracy. As the gerrymandering mastermind Thomas B. Hofellerwrote to his funders a few years ago, using this method for redistricting "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”

But here’s the good news: the bipartisan statewide coalition and 1.4 million voters who supported Clean Missouri in 2018 are watching, and we will be working to make sure these gerrymandering schemes never become law.

We must have fair maps to protect Missouri voters and make sure each vote counts. Let’s defend the will of voters and stop the Jefferson City gerrymandering plans.

Louise Wilkerson is co-president of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis. John Bowman is president of the St. Louis County NAACP.

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