Lawsuit challenges Missouri congressional map

Sunday, September 25, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A lawsuit filed Friday and financed by the National Democratic Redistricting Trust alleges that the state's new congressional districts were drawn to benefit Republicans in violation of federal requirements that they be shaped in a compact manner and protect the rights of all voters.

The lawsuit contends Missouri's new congressional districts are not compact and contiguous, deny some residents equal rights and opportunities and reflect the use of government power to benefit a few instead of looking out for the general welfare. The suit seeks an injunction to block state officials from using the new congressional map for any election and asks the court to draw a new map to be used for the 2012 through 2020 congressional elections.

It was filed in the Capitol's home of Cole County. The half-dozen plaintiffs live throughout Missouri and include a former Democratic state senator from St. Louis County and a former Democratic Boone County commissioner. Attorney Gerry Greiman said the suit raises issues that are broader than Democratic interests.

"The machinations of drawing the map were a highly partisan process," Greiman said. "It had the purpose and effect of not serving the interests of Missourians as a whole but serving the interests of a particular party."

State lawmakers this year drew new congressional districts that merged the existing nine districts into eight districts. Missouri lost a U.S. House seat when the 2010 census showed the state's 7 percent population growth rate failed to keep pace with the rest of the nation. The new map also had to account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.

The new congressional map merges two Democratic congressmen into the same St. Louis district and divvies up the 3rd Congressional District currently held by Democrat Russ Carnahan into neighboring districts.

The Kansas City-area district of Democrat Emanuel Cleaver is extended farther east to pick up several rural counties, while a swath of Jackson County was carved out and added to the district of Republican Sam Graves, whose district was spread across the northern half of the state. The west-central 4th District held by Republican Vicky Hartzler loses Cole County and picks up Boone County. Southwestern Missouri was changed the least.

To win approval for the new map, Missouri's Republican-led Legislature got help from four House Democrats to override the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Republican leaders have defended the map, saying its districts are compact and contiguous, which were two standards they had sought to meet.

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