Amendment 3, which is on the ballot in the November 2020 election, is a representation of the worst of politics. It’s a thinly veiled attempt to trick voters into making Missouri’s redistricting system more partisan under the guise of “cleaning up” campaign finance in the Show-Me State. It needs to be defeated.
The main issue with Amendment 3 is that it’s an attempt to overturn something voters passed by a decent majority just two years prior. In 2018, Missouri voters passed Amendment 1 with 62% of the vote. Amendment 1 created the position of the nonpartisan state demographer. The demographer would be chosen from a pool of applicants with input from the state auditor and majority and minority state Senate leaders.
It was designed to make the process of redistricting, the drawing of districts in Missouri that would determine representation as populations ebb and flow, less partisan. The demographer would submit their map to the district commissions for approval.
The commissioners would be allowed to amend the map, but only with 70% of the vote among commissioners. If they could not reach that number then the amendment stated the demographer’s map must be implemented.
The measure — which was overwhelmingly approved — ensured that no matter the party in power, the redistricting process would not be politicized. The goal of Amendment 1, dubbed the Clean Missouri Amendment, was to create more competitive races at the state level. It was also to limit the possibility of deadlock over redistricting that often occurred under the old system.
Because the committee in charge of redrawing the map was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the actual decision over the map would go to judges because the sides couldn’t agree. This happened in 2011, and the judges’ decision reportedly made members of both parties very upset because sometimes incumbents were shifted to new areas and different voting blocks, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Amendment 3 is seeking to turn back the clock to the system that made both sides upset and caused lengthy delays in the process as a whole.
The amendment also substitutes in the vague and weaker language in areas of Missouri’s redistricting policy that are designed to protect minority communities, equal populations throughout the districts and the importance of bipartisanship, according to the Brennan Center, a bipartisan law and policy institute. It is making redistricting more partisan, which is bad for both Democrats and Republicans alike.
Critics of Clean Missouri said that the amendment was designed to confuse voters. Featured prominently in the description of what Clean Missouri would do was its aim to limit lobbyist gifts to $5 and campaign contributions to $2,500. Those critics believe this was disingenuous because the important part of the amendment was redistricting not lobbyist gifts and campaign finance reform.
If one were to look at an official ballot for 2020 in the state of Missouri, they would notice that Amendment 3 is doing the exact same thing. The amendment states that it will further lower lobbyist gifts from Clean Missouri as well as limit campaign contributions by an additional $100.
Conveniently located last is the actual issue of redistricting, buried beneath the pork of the amendment. It’s an obvious attempt to thwart voters who make a quick glance over what the amendment will do before marking their ballot. If it wasn’t OK in 2018, it isn’t now.
Amendment 3 is clear in its motives and purposefully confusing in its language. It’s a signal that those backing the amendment believe that voters don’t know what is best for themselves. It is seeking to get the electorate to vote against themselves and their own interests, and it needs to be defeated.