Wednesday, November 23, 2011

St. Louis County board fails to agree on voting districts

The Post Dispatch writes:

The St. Louis County Reapportionment Commission failed on Tuesday night to draw new council district boundaries to conform to the 2010 census, leaving the decision in the hands of a federal judge.

The last time a redistricting commission — seven Democrats and seven Republicans — succeeded in drawing the seven council district boundaries was after the 1970 census. Federal judges established the boundaries after the last three population counts.

Both parties submitted maps for consideration.

The sticking point this time involved the 5th District, in the southwestern part of the county.

The Republican map produced a bulge in the 5th District by including Ladue and Frontenac.

Francis "Butch" Miller, the commission's Democratic chairman, said that the Republican motives were political.

"By putting Ladue and Frontenac in the 5th, which just elected a Democrat (Pat Dolan) to the County Council, you're trying to make that district more Republican," Miller, a lawyer with the Clayton firm of Gallup, Johnson and Neuman, told his Republican counterparts at a meeting at county government headquarters in Clayton.

The Republican chairman, former state Rep. Allen Icet of Wildwood, said Ladue and Frontenac were among several cities, including Crestwood and Creve Coeur, that his party had tried to situate entirely within single council districts at the request of residents.

"Based on public comments, citizens thought it was a good idea for municipalities to reside within one district and not be split amongst two or more," Icet said.

"That makes sense from the standpoint of elected officials, such as the mayor, who can address concerns to one councilman rather than multiple ones."

The Republican members asserted that the Democratic map, which made few changes to the current one, was designed to protect the Democrats' 5-2 majority on the council.

A last-minute Republican motion to have the commission meet today to consider a compromise map for the 5th District failed.

The deadline for approving the new map is Thanksgiving, but the commission will take no further action before then.

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