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St. Louis area senators raise concerns about redistricting maps

The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo.
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo.

The two state Senators who represent the bulk of St. Louis city are continuing to express concerns about a proposed state legislative district map that splits the city into a northern and southern half.

The city is currently divided along a line that travels roughly along Grand Avenue. That, says Democratic state Senator Robin Wright-Jones, makes both the districts very diverse.

The proposed map, she says, resets 40 years of battling racial divisions.

"You essentially create a Mason-Dixon line in the city,” Wright-Jones said. “And you did not create discussion, you created a great deal of ire, because we fought this issue for many, many decades."

St. Louis city and St. Louis County have both lost population since the last census.

But Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt, along with other Senators, argued that the area is still important enough to keep that many Senate districts.

"It is the economic engine of the state,” Schmitt said. “To maintain that number of eight I think is critical for adequate and fair representation in Jefferson City."

The map is a preliminary one drawn by the chair of the state Senate apportionment commission, Doug Harpool. He says it did not take the city's history into consideration.

The commission has until September 18 to approve maps. If it cannot meet that timeline, the courts will draw the lines, which they did in 2001.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.