Opinion: Missouri voters should remember GOP gerrymandering


Alex Vancil

The Republican Party has thoroughly gerrymandered several states, including Missouri, to gain an advantage in elections.

Alex Rozar

Thomas Hofeller worked from the shadows for nearly five decades. His job: manipulating Congressional districts in several states, including Missouri, to give the Republican Party an edge at the federal and state level. “Redistricting is like an election in reverse,” he once boasted at a conference for state legislators. “Usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters.”

When Hofeller died in August 2018, newspapers uncritically eulogized him as a “pioneer of modern redistricting” and the “Michelangelo of the modern gerrymander.” An obituary in The Hill claimed Hofeller, who had never been elected to public office, “may be more responsible for the Republican majority in Congress than any other single person in modern politics.”

In the time since his death, however, Hofeller’s legacy has been the subject of national media scrutiny and a legal headache for the GOP, all thanks to one person—his daughter.

And on Jan. 5, Stephanie Hofeller publicly released all of her father’s files onto the internet for anyone to view. Now, it’s up to voters to make her work count.

There is a trove of data within the “Hofeller files.” The documents indicate collusion with Republicans to create Congressional maps explicitly along both party lines and racial boundaries, the latter of which is unconstitutional. They also reveal Thomas Hofeller employing the gerrymandering tactics of “cracking,” grouping voters into a district such that Republican candidates should win by a slim margin, and “packing,” grouping Democratic voters primarily into one district to minimize Republican losses across the state.

Gerrymandering is an undemocratic process done specifically to subvert constituents’ votes. That’s why, in 2018, 62 percent of Missouri voters approved “Clean Missouri,” an amendment to the state constitution that would appoint a “nonpartisan demographer” to draw Congressional bounds.

Sadly, political conniving is once again seeking to overturn the general will. Republicans in the state legislature have so far proposed six resolutions that would either limit the amendment’s power or repeal it outright. They also sought to put a question on the 2020 ballot that, if approved, would overturn Clean Missouri—but fumbled it after two Republican senators on the Fiscal Oversight Committee failed to show up for the vote, and a third was unable to vote after violating Senate rules. Oops.

The thing is, we can’t wait for Hail Marys of sheer incompetence to salvage democratic process. We need to take action now.

Missouri voters have no other choice than to beat the redistricters at their own game—by making a strong showing at the ballot box. We need to fight to dismantle Thomas Hofeller’s dirty work in this state. The only way to do that is to continue approving amendments like Clean Missouri and vote out the politicians who unabashedly seek to undo them. Doing so will restore power to the voters and send an important message to Jefferson City and Washington, D.C.: no more “elections in reverse.” We pick you.