Used cars salesmen and political campaigns are a lot alike. It’s happened to almost all of us, usually when we bought that first used car. We heard about the wonderful sound system, with the implied hope that young women would be attracted by the ability to rattle nearby windows. We were awed by the pre-installed fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, the official leather racing steering wheel cover, the custom spoiler. The salesman would point out these options in the hope that gadgets would distract us from the slipping transmission, the rattle in the rear panel, and the engine that used more oil than gasoline.
The backers of Clean Missouri, Amendment One on the November ballot, are using the same tactics as the greasiest used car salesman, distracting us with shiny baubles in order to saddle us with a real lemon. Ethics reform is much to be desired and certainly the main selling point used by backers of the amendment, but, especially to rural voters, the price that Amendment One is charging is much too high. The payments will last a lot longer than the car will, and, after kicking the tires, Missouri voters should just say no.
Amendment One would replace our present bipartisan method for drawing legislative districts with a map drawn by our state demographer. Yes, we do have a state demographer, which was a surprise to me, but now he has a real job. When you think about it, it might be a pretty cushy job, since redistricting only happens once every ten years. After a nine year sabbatical, the demographer would, once every decade, be the most powerful person in Missouri. The power to appoint the demographer would be vested in the State Auditor, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the Constitution already charging the Secretary of State with the responsibility for elections. The theory here seems to be that we must, we absolutely must, take politics out of elections, which is a ridiculous idea, and replace the political processes that have served us well for a couple of centuries with an expert in demography.
Not only that, but districts will be drawn on the basis of competitiveness, rather than the time tested and legally sound reasons of proximity and shared interests. If one team can’t compete, it’s clear to Amendment One backers that the rules must be the problem, not the fact that the losing team might want to get better players or a smarter strategy. One thing is for sure. The only way to get more competitive districts in Missouri is to dilute the impact of rural voters by extending rural districts into urban areas, making adequate representation of rural Missouri all but impossible. It would be constitutionally required gerrymandering by an unelected expert, somebody who did real well in whatever it is that demographers study in school but who most likely doesn’t have a lick of political experience or knowledge.
Out of state groups including Planned Parenthood are sending huge amounts of money to Missouri in support of Amendment One. Perhaps they are offended by one sided elections, but more likely they are hoping that rural voters would no longer be able to elect candidates to represent their interests. Rural Missouri should take notice, and make our votes count this fall by voting no on Amendment One.