Let the Sun Shine - Ending the Secrecy

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY -- Sen. Jason Crowell, R -- Cape Girardeau, has introduced a Senate Joint Resolution to change the way state Senate and House boundaries are drawn. If passed, the Joint Resolution would require all meetings of any Senate or House redistricting commission or judicial commission to be public and require the commissions to obey Missouri's laws concerning open meetings and open records.

"The redistricting processes and drawing of Representative and Senate district lines are so fundamental to our democratic process that such activity should never occur in a secret," Sen. Crowell said. "The legislation I filed today is designed to ensure that principle is protected."

Every 10 years Missouri is constitutionally responsible to redraw the districts that represent Missourians in the General Assembly to make sure each legislative district has roughly the same number of people. To do this, the process begins with governor appointed bipartisan commissions. Having failed this year to come to an agreement, the Missouri Constitution requires the maps then be drawn by a six-member panel of Court of Appeals judges picked by the state Supreme Court.

It was during the judicial panel's work that the judge's decided to proceed in drawing the maps behind closed doors without explanation for the way the new districts were drawn. The secrecy allowed judges to both avoid being held accountable for their map nor their rationale for drawing the new districts. Missourians were simply cheated their right to participate in and understand the process in which they would be represented in the General Assembly.

"Changing the makeup of a legislative district can have a dramatic effect on how Missourians voice is represented in the Missouri Senate and House," said Sen. Crowell. "Judges should not be able to hide from citizens when making such important decisions."

To make matters worse, after the judicial panel's first map was released to significant public criticism, the panel again met without anyone knowing and made substantial changes a week later to parts of the Senate districts.

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