ST. LOUIS — Mailings, yard signs and door-to-door canvassing helped propel a revamp of St. Louis’ ward redistricting process to victory Tuesday at an election that drew only about 10% of the city’s registered voters.
Benjamin Singer, an organizer of the petition-spurred effort to shift redistricting from the Board of Aldermen to an independent commission, on Wednesday said the 69% majority support rolled up at the polls resulted from such activities in “a real people’s movement.”
However, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, an opponent of the plan — Proposition R — said the low turnout showed that most voters had very little interest in the issue.
He reiterated that a lawsuit would be filed to try to block the proposal and, failing that, to clarify that the new commission process wouldn’t start until after the next US census in 2030.
Moreover, Reed said he would ask aldermen to consider “a whole suite of things” to change the process for amending the charter. Among them would be requiring such future proposals to be voted on only at higher-turnout elections.
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“Ballot measures that the charter (should) be put on at election dates that would assure the most number of change voters have an opportunity to engage,” Reed said.
Reed didn’t specify which election dates he’s considering. Statewide elections in August and November of even-numbered years and some St. Louis municipal elections in March and April of odd-numbered years draw more voters than special city elections such as the one on Tuesday.
Only one other measure was on Tuesday’s ballot, a capital improvements bond issue that also passed overwhelmingly. Any changes in the amendment process endorsed by aldermen would have to go before voters for ratification.
Proposition R, as written and passed, calls for a redistricting commission to be set up this year to devise a map by Aug. 31 to replace one passed by aldermen in December.
But proposition supporters announced shortly after the aldermanic vote that they were no longer seeking that and instead wanted the new process to take effect 10 years from now.
They also said the map passed by aldermen met key Prop R criteria and that the April election date would make it difficult if not impossible to meet some upcoming deadlines in the proposition this year.
Reed said he had no choice but to get court clarification on that. “A time machine wasn’t provided with passage,” he said. That was a reference to some other already-missed deadlines outlined in the proposition.
Among them is the proposition’s requirement that the Board of Aldermen within 30 days of receiving 2020 census data appoint an oversight board partly made up of retired judges to supervise the formation of the redistricting commission. The city received the data last August.
Reed also says the lawsuit would seek to invalidate the entire proposition because it violates a charter ban on new laws with more than one subject.
In addition to redistricting, the measure imposes new conflict-of-interest rules on aldermen and board employees and prohibits the board from repealing or changing voter-passed election law revisions.
Proposition backers dispute Reed’s point; they say all provisions deal with the Board of Aldermen.
Reed didn’t say if he, the board or someone else would be the plaintiff in the suit; he said he is discussing that with attorneys.
Kenneth Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis University, said he believed that Prop R passed because it appealed to voters who liked the idea of taking politics “out of something they think should not be politicized” — redistricting.
He said that would include progressive Democrats and some other voters. Several members of the Board of Aldermen’s progressive faction were among R’s supporters.(tncms-asset)2d129616-b52f-11ec-834c-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)e6716cd4-b04a-11ec-b9ac-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)f998b950-5f5c-11ec-9b35-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)