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Turmoil Over Missouri|Election Districts

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A state judge rejected a challenge to the newly drawn Missouri House district map, but the case does not appear to be over, though the deadline to file for November elections is less than 2 weeks away.

A bipartisan group claimed the new map for the 163-member House was unconstitutional because the districts did not have similar populations nor were they contiguous and compact.

The group also claimed that the special commission that drew the map violated Missouri's open meeting laws by not providing notice meetings or holding at least three hearings.

Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce, in the state capital Jefferson City, rejected all of those claims in her Tuesday ruling.

The lead plaintiff in the original lawsuit, Johnson v. Koster, was Bob Johnson, a former Republican state legislator.

Judge Joyce found that the new districts are contiguous, that the plaintiffs failed to prove that requirements for the districts' populations were violated and that the special commission was not required to follow open meeting requirements because it is a judicial entity and was not acting in an administrative capacity.

The group told The Associated Press it will appeal.

Separate lawsuits have been filed challenging the new state Senate and U.S. House districts maps. The new maps are required to reflect the 2010 census. The Missouri Supreme Court in January rejected the redrawn state Senate map and ordered the process to start over.

The court was scheduled to hear arguments today (Thursday) on Missouri's new U.S. House district map.

The month-long period for candidates to file for the August primary and November general elections begins on Feb. 28. A state Senate committee is considering legislation that would push that period back a week to allow more time to resolve the challenges.

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