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Source: US State of Missouri

Why I Support “Yes” on Amendment 3: Stronger Ethics Laws, Citizen-Drawn Legislative Districts

Amendment 3 is an alternative to “Clean Missouri” placed on the ballot by the Missouri General Assembly. If approved by Missouri voters this November, Amendment 3 would completely ban lobbyist gifts to legislators, lower campaign contribution limits and place ordinary Missouri citizens in charge of drawing state legislative districts.

Clean Missouri was a constitutional amendment that created an untested, unprecedented redistricting process in Missouri. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, 90% of Clean Missouri’s contributions came from outside Missouri; with hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled through secretive, dark money groups. In my opinion, these well-funded backers of Clean Missouri played a bait-and-switch with Missouri voters, using promises of ethics reforms and nonpartisan professionals, but delivering something entirely different.

Bipartisan, citizen-led commissions led Missouri’s previous redistricting process. Groups of ordinary Missourians drew legislative districts that had to be compact, contiguous and follow commonsense boundaries like city limits, county lines, major roads and natural features like rivers. Furthermore, this process gave the public at-large an opportunity to offer input and scrutinize the commissions’ work (both during the process and afterwards in the courts). I believe this process was fair, proven and delivered districts that maintained the unique voices of individual communities—especially rural and majority-minority communities.

Clean Missouri tossed out Missouri’s citizen-led redistricting press and placed redistricting in the hands of an unelected state demographer. While proponents promised a nonpartisan, professional demographer would draw fair and competitive districts, I believe Clean Missouri’s vague language offers little to ensure this actually takes place. Clean Missouri does not list any job qualifications for the demographer, does not explain whom that individual is accountable to and does not specify the demographer’s salary…the list of unanswered questions goes on and on and on.

Furthermore, Clean Missouri switched the criteria for drawing legislative districts from “compact” and “contiguous” to “fair” and “competitive.” What does that mean for Missouri voters? From where I stand, it means instead of honoring municipal and natural boundaries, communities across the state would be sliced up into districts designed specifically to dilute and diminish individual communities’ voices. In my opinion, districts drawn under this process would possibly snake in and out of large urban centers, through the suburbs, and into rural Missouri. I believe this is insulting, it’s ridiculous and it’s gerrymandering, plain and simple.

As a result of this process, the Missouri General Assembly passed an alternative to Clean Missouri: Amendment 3. While Clean Missouri capped lobbyist gifts, Amendment 3 bans them completely. While Clean Missouri capped campaign contributions, Amendment 3 lowers those caps. And most importantly, I believe Amendment 3 restores competency and integrity to the redistricting process, replacing the all-powerful, appointed demographer with bipartisan, citizen-led commissions. Under Amendment 3, districts drawn by those commissions will be compact, contiguous and more sensitive to partisan competitiveness—all while protecting minorities and distinct community voices.

In my opinion, a “yes” vote on Amendment 3 will deliver stronger ethics laws and, most importantly, a cleaner, carefully vetted redistricting process that all Missourians can trust and scrutinize.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at dave.schatz@senate.mo.gov if you have any questions or concerns — we are honored to serve you.

MIL OSI USA News