Missouri faces more lawsuits over lack of redistricting map

FILE - Missouri state Rep. Travis Fitzwater studies a proposed map of U.S. House districts...
FILE - Missouri state Rep. Travis Fitzwater studies a proposed map of U.S. House districts during a state House committee hearing on Jan. 10, 2022, at the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. With the state's Republican-led Legislature still deadlocked on redistricting, Missouri now faces lawsuits in both federal and state court asking the judiciary to intervene and order a new U.S. House map before this summer's primary election. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)(David A. Lieb | AP)
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 1:21 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — With the state’s Republican-led Legislature still deadlocked on redistricting, Missouri now faces lawsuits in both federal and state court asking the judiciary to intervene and order a new U.S. House map before this summer’s primary election.

Republican congressional candidate Paul Berry III, who filed the latest lawsuit in federal court, said Wednesday that the continued uncertainty over Missouri’s U.S. House districts is affecting his ability to campaign.

“There’s no way that I can do a poll on a district that doesn’t have boundaries,” Berry said. “What door do I knock on? How do I take the limited amount of resources and campaign when I could be knocking on a door or targeting a voter that’s not even in my district?”

Though Republicans control the Missouri House, Senate and governor’s office, they have been unable to agree on a final plan to redraw the state’s eight U.S. House districts based on the 2020 census. Missouri is the only state not to have at least passed a redistricting plan, though uncertainties remain in several other states.

In New Hampshire, lawmakers are still trying to craft a map that will win over Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who plans to veto their first attempt. On Wednesday, a House committee recommended a new plan, though Sununu had said earlier he opposed it.

Judges in Kansas and New York recently struck down maps that they said unduly favored Republicans and Democrats, respectively, though appeals are ongoing. Other states with pending court challenges include Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed into law a map that could help GOP candidates win several additional seats.

The Missouri House and Senate each approved separate congressional redistricting plans earlier this year. But the House voted down the Senate plan, and the Senate has refused to convene a joint conference committee to formally negotiate a compromise.

Missouri Republicans are at odds over how aggressively to draw districts in the GOP’s favor and over which communities to split while equalizing district populations. One sticking point is how to shape the 2nd District in suburban St. Louis, which is the state’s most competitive seat. Berry is one of three Republicans challenging GOP Rep. Ann Wagner in that district. She also faces several Democratic opponents and a Libertarian candidate.

Republican state Sen. Andrew Koenig, who authored the Senate’s redistricting plan, said Wednesday that he met with House Speaker Rob Vescovo regarding redistricting but that the two chambers remain “pretty far apart.”

“I think it’s probably headed toward the direction of not getting a map passed,” said Koenig, a Republican from St. Louis County.

Lawmakers face a May 13 deadline to pass legislation during their annual session.

Hearings on the redistricting lawsuits have been scheduled for May 9 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis and May 23 in the state’s Cole County Circuit Court.

All the lawsuits contend it’s unconstitutional for Missouri to hold its Aug. 2 primary using districts based on the 2010 census, because they no longer have equal populations. Berry’s lawsuit ask a court to order a new map.

A state lawsuit backed by Democrats asks a judge to adopt a new U.S. House map while a rival state lawsuit by Republicans asks a judge to order the Legislature to adopt a new plan and to reopen candidate filing.

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Associated Press writer Holly Ramer contributed from Concord, New Hampshire.

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