Both sides in the debate on Missouri’s Amendment Three November ballot measure presented their case to voters Wednesday evening, in a virtual forum hosted by Springfield’s Drury University.
Missourians approved “Clean Missouri” in 2018, which required a nonpartisan demographer to draw state legislative districts. Amendment Three transfers that responsibility to governor-appointed bipartisan commissions.
State Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, is the sponsor of Amendment Three. He notes his sprawling district, which has 15 counties, is the largest senatorial district in the state and is also the most rural district. Agriculture is the largest industry in northwest Missouri.
Hegeman says he respects communities of interest, both urban and rural.
“It is my great concern that our communities will find their voices diminished in Jefferson City (in the state Legislature), because of the liberal think tank ideas contained in the criteria of Amendment One, passed in 2018,” Hegeman says.
“No On 3” director Sean Soendker-Nickolson disagrees, saying that Amendment Three’s aim is to create “super-safe districts”, where politicians don’t have to worry about voters back home. He also says Amendment Three backers have placed a ban on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers to distract voters from the redistricting issue.
“No one thinks those are real reforms, those are a smokescreen to distract voters from what’s really going on,” Soendker-Nickolson says.
Senator Hegeman notes he’s term-limited and will be leaving the Legislature in two years. He says redistricting will be a much fairer process with the bipartisan commission or commissions, with many voices looking at how the districts are drawn.
Hegeman opposes the idea of a demographer.
“You know it puts in charge in a great capacity an unelected bureaucrat that really would redraw how we do the state of Missouri, with fairly limited abilities to select that individual,” says Hegeman.
He says Clean Missouri places partisan preference over rural and urban communities. “No On 3” director Soendker-Nickolson disagrees with Hegeman, especially on the demographer.
“As Senator Hegeman’s colleague, (Senate Majority Leader) Caleb Rowden said just last week, the Republican majority leader, we actually pick the demographer, myself (Rowden) and the minority leader (State Sen. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City). It was a multi-step process on purpose,” says Soendker-Nickolson.
He also warns about the cost of Amendment Three, citing the official ballot language, which reads that “individual local governmental entities expect significantly decreased revenues of a total unknown amount.”
Soendker-Nickolson says Clean Missouri passed with a large, bipartisan majority, noting it was backed by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth (R), the AARP, the League of Women Voters, and others.
Wednesday evening’s forum was hosted by Drury University’s L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship. Senator Hegeman and Mr. Soendker-Nickolson spoke via zoom and answered questions from moderator Dr. Dan Ponder, the Meador Center director. They also answered about 20 minutes of questions from the virtual audience.
Amendment Three has also been a key issue in Missouri’s heated gubernatorial race and was discussed by both major candidates at Friday’s debate in Columbia.
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