The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state’s new congressional districts Friday, solidifying a Democratic primary fight between two St. Louis congressmen and providing certainty for candidates who weren’t sure which neighborhoods would be in their territories for the August primary elections. A divided high court ruled Friday that Missouri’s eight new U.S. House districts comply with a constitutional requirement to be “as compact … as may be.” The ruling affirms boundaries enacted last year when the Republican-led legislature — with the help of a few Democrats — overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Although some Supreme Court judges dissented, a majority determined that the Missouri Constitution “does not require absolute precision in compactness.” The Supreme Court ultimately deferred to a February decision by Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green, declaring that it was not going to substitute its own judgment for the trial court’s when it came to disputed factual issues about the boundaries.
Missouri lawmakers had to redraw the state’s nine current congressional districts into eight new districts after the 2010 census, because Missouri’s population growth lagged behind that of some other states. The new congressional district map also had to account for population shifts within the state, such as a continued exodus of residents from St. Louis to its outer suburbs. The new map triggered a Democratic primary in the 1st District in St. Louis between U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, whose current district was split into several pieces.
On Friday, Carnahan accused Clay of striking a deal with state Republicans last year in an “attempt to keep a politically comfortable seat for himself” that resulted in fewer overall St. Louis-centered and Democratic-leaning districts. “What this means is that for the next decade we are now stuck with the badly gerrymandered districts that needlessly divide our communities into bizarre animal-shaped districts,” Carnahan said.