JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House endorsed a congressional redistricting plan Tuesday that is projected to maintain the state's Republican edge but turned back an attempt by some GOP members to more aggressively redraw districts to their advantage.
The proposed map for Missouri's eight U.S. House districts adjusts the boundaries to account for population changes in the 2020 census. It's expected to continue the current representation of six Republicans and two Democrats — one each from the urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City.
Some Republicans — seeking to follow aggressive gerrymanders elsewhere — pushed for a map that could have delivered a 7-1 Republican advantage by splitting up the Kansas City-area district represented by Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. Their proposals would have merged urban Democrats with large numbers of rural Missourians who favor Republicans.
The attempt was similar to what has been proposed in neighboring Tennessee, where Republicans have put forth plans to split up a Democratic-held district in Nashville. Lawmakers in some other states — including Democrats in neighboring Illinois and Republicans in North Carolina — also have drawn maps that give their party a boost.
But in Missouri, one attempt to split Kansas City was rejected for not maintaining equal populations in the districts and a second attempt failed by a 23-120 vote.
The House later voted 84-60 to give first-round approval to a predominantly status quo plan put forth by the House Special Committee on Redistricting. That legislation, which would keep the districts mostly unchanged, needs a final vote, expected Thursday, to advance to the Senate.
To take effect in time for the August primary elections, the plan must pass the House with a two-thirds majority of 109 votes. Although Tuesday's vote was far short of that threshold, sponsoring Rep. Dan Shaul said he believes some lawmakers who initially voted against the bill will ultimately vote for its emergency passage to ensure elections aren't disrupted.
Shaul, a Republican, described the plan as a “fair map” that is likely to sustain Republicans' current edge without stretching so far that it invites a strong court challenge or spreads Republicans so thin that they are susceptible to losing seats if political winds shift.
He said the plan also reduces the number of counties that are split among districts and keeps communities of interest intact.
The House voted down Democratic attempts to slightly boost the already sizable minority population in a St. Louis district represented by Democratic Rep. Cori Bush and to exclude a Republican-leaning area of suburban Kansas City from the district represented by Cleaver.
Democrats argued that Missouri's statewide elections indicate they should be able to win three seats in Congress. Although no Democrats voted for the plan endorsed Tuesday, some expressed satisfaction with at least keeping two districts in their favor. Democratic Rep. Doug Clemens said the map was “quasi-fair.”
Republicans who wanted to more aggressively gerrymander districts said it was justified to counter Democratic attempts in Congress to pass liberal priorities, such as a nationwide voting rights law and federal funding for abortions.
"We are trying to save this republic. We are trying to ensure that the representatives that we are putting forth with these boundaries are representing the core values of the people here in the state of Missouri,” said Republican Rep. Nick Schroer.
Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth said Republicans pushing for a 7-1 advantage among districts were “overtly gerrymandering the map” in “a radical way.”