Editorials

Republicans will do anything — even enlist black Democrats — to overturn Clean Missouri

Get the facts The Clean Missouri Initiative

Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved the Clean Missouri initiative in November 2018. The measure creates new rules for lawmakers in Jefferson City, including limits on contributions from lobbyists.
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Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved the Clean Missouri initiative in November 2018. The measure creates new rules for lawmakers in Jefferson City, including limits on contributions from lobbyists.

Republicans in the Missouri legislature are redoubling efforts to overturn Clean Missouri, the ethics and redistricting reform measure approved by voters in November.

In the latest chapter of this sad saga, lawmakers who are anxious to give voters another crack at Clean Missouri have been trying to enlist African American leaders in the cause.

Clean Missouri’s GOP critics are misrepresenting the initiative’s redistricting system, which was designed to make the state’s legislative districts more fair. Republicans claim the new approach will cost African American seats.

“I believe (Clean Missouri) is going to disenfranchise African American voters in St. Louis and Kansas City,” said Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican from St. Charles County.

This view is deeply misguided, and all Missourians should reject it.

Clean Missouri specifically requires the state to consider racial disparities when drawing new districts. “Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process,” the state’s constitution says.

Clean Missouri curtails the power of self-interested politicians in the redistricting process, installing a nonpartisan demographer to craft maps with the aim of drawing more evenly balanced districts.

“Districts shall be designed in a manner that achieves both partisan fairness and, secondarily, competitiveness,” the measure says.

All Missourians want fair, competitive districts — except Republican leaders, who are apparently terrified by the thought of political parity in Jefferson City. Fair districts threaten Republican power in the state capital.

Does anyone seriously dispute this? An Associated Press analysis found that in the November elections, Republican candidates averaged 57% of the two-party vote in Missouri House races. Yet Republicans won 71% of the seats. That’s the clear result of gerrymandering.

Thankfully, most Missourians, including many African American political leaders, have seen through the GOP’s ruse. They know a more balanced legislature will benefit everyone, including those who live in struggling urban areas.

Urban voters clearly endorsed Clean Missouri. In Kansas City, the initiative passed with 67% of the vote; in St. Louis City, more than 80% of voters said yes. Statewide, 62% of voters supported Clean Missouri, which, by the way, ended up on the ballot because of petition signatures, not legislative action.

Republicans who insist voters were confused by Clean Missouri continue to insult the intelligence of everyone who cast a ballot in November.

“The people read (Clean Missouri). They understood it. They voted for it. Don’t undo the will of the people,” said Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the NAACP Missouri State Conference.

There is some good news here. Republicans can’t overturn Clean Missouri on their own: Changes would have to go back to voters in 2020. We’re confident those voters would reject the GOP’s repeated attempts to rig the election outcome.

But it should never get that far. The state’s Republican leadership should back away from any proposed changes to Clean Missouri, and then try to win statehouse races the old-fashioned way, by nominating quality candidates and earning more votes at the polls.

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