Supreme Court Hearings - Redistricting Challenges

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri High Court heard three cases Thursday morning challenging the state's newly drawn house and senate districts.  Attorneys involved in the hearings told KOMU 8 they do not expect a decision this week even though filing for the 2012 election opens next month. 

One lawsuit filed against the state objects to the reapportion of state senate districts.  Attorney David Brown argued the withdrawal of an original reapportionment plan and then filing of a second plan went against the constitution.  Brown also said the filing of the second plan, which he claims crosses county lines, unequally distributes senate representation among voters.

The state argued the constitution allows it to file a substitute second plan within a 90-day timeline, which it met.

Two other lawsuits filed against the attorney general claim the redrawn U.S. house districts are not sufficiently compact and serve partisan ends. Missouri lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives -- dropping from nine to eight districts -- due to population shifts revealed in the 2010 census.

Attorneys Janie Landis and Gerald Gierman argued the legislature ignored the compactness requirement of the redrawn districts according to the constitution.  Voters in the redrawn districts assert the new map deprives them of equal protection and infringed on their right to vote.  The argument is that legislation "exercised government power for something other than the good of the whole and the general welfare of the people." 

The Missouri attorney general argued voters did not prove the legislature completely ignored the compactness requirement.  Christ Koster said, "General complaints regarding the basis for district lines are insufficient to constitute a claim."

A decision on each of the three suits is not expected this week.  The Supreme court is pressed for time since candidate filing for 2012 elections opens February 28.

For Missouri, if the newly drawn districts are invalidated, the districts used before the 2010 census would remain vaild. A new redistricting commission could be appointed to draw a new senate map. 

Brown said one thing that cannot happen is to have a new redistricting plan drawn after filing opens.  He told KOMU 8 whatever map is used February 28 will be the map used for the entire election.

Gierman said he hopes the court will be prompt but a decision this week is unrealistic. 

If maps are redrawn, candidates who plan to file may go back on their decisions.  House Representative Jeanie Riddle told KOMU 8 in December she will run for the senate seat in the newly drawn 7th district.  She added though if the maps are changed, she would end her candidacy.

Also, Congressman Russ Carnahan may have a district to run for senate if the Courts rule the maps are unconstitutional.  His old district, the third, was eliminated in the new map.