Next year, state lawmakers will redraw the congressional district maps based on the 2020 census, a process mandated by the Constitution. In anticipation of this new redistricting cycle, Slate is revamping our gerrymander puzzle game from 2013 as part of our Who Counts? initiative. We’ll be releasing new puzzles over the upcoming weeks, highlighting the worst and weirdest gerrymanders in the country. Find out how quickly you can put these states back together and learn everything that’s at stake in the next round of redistricting.
Missouri’s congressional gerrymander represents a fraught compromise. After the 2010 election, Republicans gained control of the state legislature—and with it, the authority to draw new maps. But Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had the power to veto those maps. Republicans needed at least three Democrats to join them to override Nixon’s veto.
To nab those three votes, Republicans struck a deal with a handful of Black legislators. The state lost one congressional seat after the 2010 census, and GOP lawmakers intended to eliminate a Democrat-held district. At the time, Missouri had three Democratic congressmen, two Black, one white. Republicans effectively drew the white congressman out of his seat. That move left just two Democratic districts, both represented by Black congressmen, both containing a significant number of racial minorities.
The gambit worked. As predicted, the legislature drew a map that gave Republicans six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. Nixon vetoed it. Republicans then overrode his veto with the help of four Black legislators, three of whom supported the GOP’s plan from the start. As one crossover Democrat put it, “I’m Black before I’m a Democrat.”
In 2018, Missourians decided to limit gerrymandering via constitutional amendment. A supermajority of voters approved Amendment 1, which took redistricting power from the legislature and handed it to a nonpartisan state demographer. Republican lawmakers are currently scheming to gut this reform and make it much harder to sue against gerrymanders or win a fairer, court-drawn map. They are also considering a seismic shift after the 2020 census: Many Missouri Republicans want to count only U.S. citizens, not overall population, when redistricting next year. This approach would shift power away from diverse, urban communities toward white, rural ones. If the legislature takes that leap, the impending battle over district lines may make the 2010 showdown look like child’s play.