RefromSTL

Show Me Integrity volunteers are outside polling places Tuesday petitioning for a November ballot initiative that would seek to shift the responsibility of redrawing the city’s wards from the Board of Aldermen to an independent citizen redistricting commission.

The campaign, entitled Reform St. Louis, is led by a coalition of leaders and organizations and was announced last week. Among the 11 named endorsers are League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, Black Caucus of the Missouri Democratic Party, Missouri Faith Voices and former candidate for Missouri Secretary of State, Yinka Faleti.

Show Me Integrity announced Monday they exceeded their goal of raising $100,000 and recruiting 200 volunteers by February 28.

Reform St. Louis will dispatch volunteers to collect 30,000 signatures outside election locations in March and April to put the initiative, referred to as Proposition R, on the November special election ballot.

Claudia Spener was one of those volunteers out Tuesday morning collecting signatures for Proposition R. She spoke with the St. Louis American outside New City School in the Central West End.

“I think most people were interested in signing the petition, I would say, if they had time,” she said. “A lot of people are in a hurry because they are on their way to work.” 

The campaign asserts that every 10 years the Board of Aldermen draw and vote on their own wards and that’s led to gerrymandering and ineffective ward boundaries. To illustrate this, Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, Ward 6, noted at the media event last week that her ward encompasses only portions of approximately nine neighborhoods.

This issue is brought up as the Board of Aldermen prepares to reduce itself from 28 wards to 14 wards, per a citywide vote in 2012 that wards be reduced following the 2020 census. Under that proposition, the first election in the newly drawn wards would be held in 2023 for all wards and the aldermanic president.

The coalition says it does not have a position on the matter of ward reduction.

In addition to ward redistricting, the coalition’s proposed policy includes requiring that aldermen’s financial disclosure statements be posted online and open to the public without having to request them. When it comes to the independent citizen redistricting commission, the proposed policy would prohibit lobbyists, aldermen and others with conflicts of interest from serving on the commission.

In addition, aldermen would not be allowed to take actions on policies where they have a personal or financial conflict of interest related to the legislation being considered.  

The campaign said it also seeks to protect the rights of voters through a provision that would not allow a Board of Aldermen candidate to be elected with only 30% of the vote. Reform St. Louis asserts there are some alderpeople who wish to reintroduce that lower vote requirement.

Taylor Jackson, Director of Campaigns at Show Me Integrity, said the final policy is a direct result of a public input process and a scientific poll, with each piece of the proposition polling at 75% or higher. Jackson said the coalition heard from over 800 St. Louisans about reforms that they’d like to see in the city.

Show Me Integrity is a nonprofit organization that conducts cross-partisan campaigns for effective government reform. For more information about Reform St. Louis, visit reformstlouis.com.

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