What District am I in? That is a question that even causal political observers in the State of Missouri have to keep asking. The State has seen a rash of litigation with regards to our U.S. Congressional boundaries, our State Senate boundaries, and now our new State House boundaries. There are multiple lawsuits around the State challenging the boundaries of each of those representative districts. This writing is not so much to examine the intricacies of the arguments of those cases, but to update those that are curious about procedurally where things are and how they got there.
Both the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution require that after every decennial census that the boundaries of the representative districts be reevaluated and realigned according to new population numbers. For the U.S. Congressional lines the State Legislative Houses are challenged with coming up with a plan to pass on to the Governor for approval. In a bipartisan effort our legislators were able to do that and then submitted that plan to the Governor. Governor Nixon then vetoed the maps, but the legislators over road his veto. For the State Senate and House boundaries a bipartisan committee of citizens is appointed by the Governor for each legislative house. In 2011 neither of those committees was able to come up with a map that was acceptable by the majority of the committee. Accordingly, the Constitution provided that a panel of Appellate Judges would take the next crack at the State boundaries. That was done on or about November 30, 2011. The Appellate Commission issued maps for both the Missouri State House and Missouri State Senate. Approximately 10 days later the Appellate Commission revised its State Senate maps.
Here come the lawsuits. Each of our representative district maps has now faced legal challenges. First, the Congressional districts have faced a couple of different lawsuits. Those lawsuits were filed in the State Court system. Eventually the State Trial Court summarily dismissed those cases finding that they did not merit even a hearing. That decision was subsequently overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court and sent back to the Trial Court for hearing. As of today the boundaries stay the same as where issued in 2011, with a hearing pending in the Trial Court as to the Constitutionality of those lines. Since starting this the trial court has issued a judgement upholding the new Congressional maps, it is anticipated but not know yet that the plaintiff’s will appeal that decision.
Our State Senate lines are in a little different place. The first map on November 30, 2011 that was issued by the Appellate Judicial Commission was by many people’s account blatantly unconstitutional. Presumably, the Appellate Judges realized that because they issued a new Senate map approximately 10 days later. A lawsuit was then filed challenging Appellate Judicial Commissions lines. That challenge was heard by the Missouri Supreme Court and the Supreme Court found that, 1) the original map issued by the Appellate Commission was unconstitutional and 2) the second map they issued was issued without proper authority. They ordered that the Governor start all over by appointing another bipartisan commission. By the Constitution once that Commission is reappointed it can be dissolved in two ways; 1) by agreeing to issuing a map or 2) in the passage of six months without issuing a map. Accordingly, the boundaries that will be used in the process to be followed for the 2012 Missouri State Senate elections is up in the air.
Finally, the State House of Representative Districts appeared to be safe during the while the lawsuits mentioned above were filed and litigated. However, after the Supreme Court’s rulings on the U.S. Congressional lines and the State Senate lines a new lawsuit was filed challenging the State House of Representative lines. That lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri. The Supreme Court said its not our issue at this point and needs to be heard by the Trial Court. A few days later a similar lawsuit was filed in State Court, with an additional twist. A new challenge to the State House lines added an argument that the Judicial Commission violated the Missouri Sunshine Act in developing their maps. That lawsuit continues today.
The conclusion to the questions “What district am I in”? For any of these representative districts is still somewhat up in the air. All Missouri citizens stand by now and wait for our Court systems to act to resolve these questions.