The votes won't be cast for another four years, yet Democrats already appear likely to gain seats in Missouri's Republican-dominated Legislature in 2022. The reason: a one-of-its kind redistricting initiative approved by voters in the recent midterm elections. Missouri's initiative marks a new frontier in a growing movement against partisan gerrymandering that has now notched ballot-box victories in eight states over the past decade. Other states have created independent commissions and required bipartisan votes to redraw legislative and congressional districts. Missouri will be the first to rely on a new mathematical formula to try to engineer "partisan fairness" and "competitiveness" in its state legislative districts; the Legislature will continue drawing the state's congressional districts.
An AP analysis of the new Missouri formula shows it has the potential to end the GOP supermajorities in the state House and Senate and move the chambers closer to the more even partisan division that is reflected in statewide races. But the size of the likely Democratic gains remains uncertain, partly because the formula has never been put to a test. After the 2010 census, Republicans nationwide controlled more state legislatures and governor's offices than Democrats. They used that power to draw legislative and congressional districts that benefited the GOP. Since then, advocates have been trying to reform the system to eliminate or greatly reduce partisan gerrymandering, which has been used by both parties over the years to draw political boundaries in ways that give the dominant party a disproportionate hold on power. (Democrats lost a major redistricting case in Texas this year.)