Every ten years, the release of the U.S. Census triggers a tidal wave of political ramifications that ripple from coast to coast. The census reflects the fluctuation in population among the states, necessitating a shuffling of, among other things, state legislative and congressional districts. States are awarded Congressional representatives based on their populations: the greater the population, the greater the representation. While some states gain representatives and others lose them, the outcome is the same: districts must be redrawn. In what has been likened to a “periodic comet,” challenges by citizens to this redistricting frequently arise. Behind this litigation is often the fear that the authorities entrusted with the task of producing district maps will abuse their discretion and, in a practice known as “gerrymandering,” draw districts that dilute the voting strength of particular groups. Article III, section 45 of the Missouri Constitution contains a provision that acts to combat this practice, requiring that districts be “as compact . . . as may be.” Missouri courts have consistently expressed the necessity of this “compactness requirement,” stating, “The protection of this constitutional provision applies to each Missouri voter, in every congressional district. ‘No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live.’” However, the effect of a century of redistricting litigation, culminating in the recent Supreme Court of Missouri case Pearson v. Koster, has been to weaken this provision rather than strengthen it. In order to reinforce state protections against gerrymandering, Missouri courts must interpret this constitutional requirement in a way that ultimately holds redistricting authorities responsible for justifying gross deviations from the standard of compactness.

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