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Missouri Court Tosses Redrawn District Maps

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed redrawn district maps for the state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, upending the state's political scene as the time looms for candidates to file.

Redrawing the U.S. congressional district map has been a point of debate since Missouri lost a seat in the U.S. House, dropping from nine to eight, after the 2010 census.

In the challenge to the map for the state Senate, the Supreme Court found that the plan was unconstitutional because it created too many districts out of two counties in Springfield and Kansas City. The panel that created the districts also exceeded its authority by trying to submit a second version that minimized the splits, the justices ruled.

"The constitution expressly provides that, while the commission may generally not cross county lines when reapportioning senate districts, in dividing multi-district areas, county lines may be crossed no more than once, if necessary to complete a district that would otherwise have insufficient population to constitute its own district," the unsigned decision states. "This provision reflects Missouri's constitution's historical recognition of counties as important governmental units, in which people are accustomed to working together, and provided for that policy to be considered in the state Senate redistricting process.

"The nonpartisan reapportionment commission's plan violated this constitutional provision by improperly dividing the district boundaries in the multi-district areas of Jackson and Greene Counties," the decision continues.

Improper divisions of Jackson County created two districts that crossed into Cass and Clay Counties. An area of Greene County was likewise reapportioned so that the boundaries of two districts crossed into 11 other counties.

In the congressional case, the high court revived claims that some districts are not sufficiently compact. A Jefferson City has until Feb. 3 to hold a hearing on this previously dismissed matter. A Republican-led Legislature passed the map in question over the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

"This court makes no prejudgment on these issues, or on the compactness of other districts, other than to hold that plaintiffs have stated a claim as to the compactness of the districts that is subject to proof and defenses in accordance with evidence as in any other lawsuit," according to the second unsigned decision.

"It was error for the trial court to grant judgment on the pleadings and dismiss Count I of both petitions."

Come Feb. 28, candidates will have one month to file for the August primary and November general elections. Half of the state's 34 Senate seats and all eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be filled then.

Nixon has already asked the Democratic and Republican state committees to submit new sets of nominees so he can name a new commission to draw up the state Senate districts as ordered by the court.

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