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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Coalition Seeks Public Input on Missouri's New Voting-District Maps

Missouri News Service / Lily Bohlke

As Missouri lawmakers prepare to draw lines for the next decade of voting-district maps, groups advocating for a fair process are urging residents to give their input, using an online tool to map their own communities of interest.

A "community of interest" is a group of people with similar policy needs, who could benefit from being in the same district, so they can advocate for their cause. Advocates said it can be especially critical for those who have historically been left out of the political process.

Rachel Tripp, community development specialist for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, said a community of interest can be defined in many ways.

"A lot of communities come together that live in a specific school district area, that they might have the same interests, those same concerns," Tripp explained. "And then, there might be just different neighborhood groups, or around a specific landmark, so, something that really brings people together."

Any maps submitted to the Missouri Community Mapping Project will be sent to researchers at Tufts University to compile and share with the state lawmakers tasked with redistricting. Maps submitted so far include groupings by race and ethnicity, age and working status, geographic regions, income levels, community college campuses, areas surrounding parks and medical centers and more.

In 2018, Missouri voters passed a ballot initiative to give an independent demographer the pen to redraw state legislative maps instead of political commissions, to reduce partisan gerrymandering, but in 2020, they repealed it.

Tripp added while redistricting is still up to the commissions, the accessibility of online mapping tools gives the public a chance to be involved.

"Redistricting tools have really been traditionally held by the elite few," Tripp contended. "And we've all been, you know, for the most part, largely in the dark about how redistricting happens. So, we really have a chance this year to change the way our districts are drawn in Missouri."

Community Partnership of the Ozarks and the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri co-host an event tonight, to raise awareness of the importance of public input on redistricting. They'll also teach people how to use the online tool and submit their map.