Judicial commission begins work on Missouri Senate redistricting

The panel of six appellate judges will hold a Feb. 17 public hearing in Jefferson City

By: - February 8, 2022 11:44 am

Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City (Getty Images).

While the Missouri Senate is locked in a filibuster over how to draw the state’s congressional districts, the body charged with remaking the map for the chamber’s 34 members is ready to work. 

The six judges chosen for the Judicial Redistricting Commission have set a Feb. 17 hearing in Jefferson City for the public to present ideas for how to draw the map.

A website launched Monday also offers a chance to provide written comments on how the 34 districts should be designed. If the commission submits a plan that meets constitutional requirements, the districts would be used for the coming decade.

But whether they will be used for this year’s elections is uncertain. The commission has until mid-April to submit a map. That falls after the filing period for candidates to appear on the August primary ballot ends on March 29. 

Filing begins Feb. 22.

The Missouri Supreme Court appointed the six judges on Jan. 11, with a directive that it would draw Missouri House or state Senate districts in case bipartisan commissions selected for the job “fail to file a timely final statement with the secretary of state.”

The House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission approved a map in late January but the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission did not. 

Unlike the citizens commissions, which are required to hold at least three public hearings before submitting a tentative plan and at least one afterwards, the only requirement for public hearings for the judicial panel is to hold one public hearing on a tentative plan.

There is no agenda available yet for the Feb. 17 hearing, and no other meetings of the judicial commission have been posted, so it is uncertain whether a plan will be available for comment at that time.

The six judges, two from each of the state’s three appellate courts, are:

  • Thomas A. Chapman of the Western District Court of Appeals. Chapman was appointed to the court in August 2018 after eight years as a circuit judge in the 43rd Circuit in north Missouri.
  • Michael Gardner of the Eastern District Court of Appeals. Gardner was appointed in February 2020 after six years on the bench as a circuit judge of the 32nd Circuit in southeast Missouri.
  • Gary Lynch of the Southern District Court of Appeals. Lynch was appointed to the court in January 2006 after three years as an associate circuit judge in Polk County of the 30th Judicial Circuit.
  • Cynthia Martin of the Western District. Martin was appointed to the court in October 2009.
  • Angela Quigless of the Eastern District. Quigless was appointed to the court in 2012 after 17 years on the bench that included eight years as an associate circuit judge and nine years as a circuit judge in St. Louis.
  • Mary Sheffield of the Southern District. Sheffield was appointed to the court in 2012 after 29 years on the bench, including 21 years as an associate circuit judge in Phelps County and eight years as a circuit judge in the 25th Circuit.

State senators serve four-year terms and voters elect 17 members every two years. This year, even-numbered districts will be on the ballot.

Under the provisions of the Missouri Constitution, the districts are supposed to be as equal as possible in population, with allowances to keep counties and cities wholly within a single district.

No county can be split more than once and counties that have more than the ideal population – 181,026 residents – are to have entire districts within their boundaries with a remainder paired with adjoining counties.

If the Judicial Redistricting Commission cannot agree, or if its map does not meet the constitutional requirements, a second citizens commission will be chosen. That happened after the 2010 census, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the judicial commission had exceeded its authority and drawn constitutionally invalid Senate districts.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

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