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State Supreme Court set to hear challenges to state, congressional redistricting

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2012 - The Missouri Supreme Court has agreed to hold back-to-back oral arguments next Thursday on suits challenging Missouri's congressional and state Senate redistricting.

The court will listen to arguments in two congressional cases -- one from Kansas City area Republicans and the other from St. Louis area Democrats-- that challenge the new map approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last spring. Legislators overrode the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

A lower-court judge dismissed the case last month, saying that politics obviously played a role in the new boundary lines, but that such action wasn't unconstitutional, as critics allege. The suit had been filed in September.

The new map, which goes into effect with the 2012 elections, in effect does away with the existing 3rd District represented by U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis. Missouri loses one of its current nine districts because the 2010 census determined that Missouri grew less than some other states.

Meanwhile, the court also agreed to hear a case -- filed just days ago -- that challenges how judges drew the new maps for the state Senate. A panel of appellate judges submitted a map on Nov. 30 but then filed a revised one Dec. 9. Opponents contend that the state constitution doesn't allow the revision.

The altered map appeared to have been filed, in part, because of complaints that the earlier map also violated the state constitution's restrictions on when counties can be split between more than state Senate district.

State Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, announced todaythat he backs the suit.

Time is of the essence for all the suits because candidate filing in Missouri begins Feb. 28.

Carnahan has made no secret that he hopes the state Supreme Court mandates a new congressional map that preserves his district. If not, Carnahan is expected to challenge U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, who represents the 1st District. That district's new boundaries take in part of Carnahan's current district.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.