JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court heard challenges Thursday against new congressional maps passed by the General Assembly. The court date took place on the same day that the Senate passed a bill to extend the filing date for state office, which is supposed to occur in less than two weeks.
Thursday's hearing is one in a string of court cases ignited by voters who challenged the new map's constitutionality. A veto of the map by Gov. Jay Nixon was overruled by the General Assembly and the new maps became law.
The Missouri Constitution states that congressional districts must "be composed of contiguous territory as compact and nearly equal in population as may be." Those in opposition to the new maps have drawn alternative maps that they say have a greater degree of compactness than the one proposed by the legislature.
Attorneys Gerald Greiman and Jamie Barker-Landes represented those challenging the new map.
"The focal point of the argument was on the legal issue and what does 'as may be' mean," Greiman said.
"As may be means as compact as possible under the circumstances, and the circumstances are limited to other constitutionally mandated requirements for map drawing, such as contiguity and equal population," Greiman added.
The major source of contention has been the new 5th District, referred to as a "teardrop" that includes urban Kansas City, but not eastern Jackson County.
"My clients obviously think that the 5th District is the most important deficiency in House Bill 193...It's the worst district. Its the easiest to look at and say 'That's not right,'"says Landes.
Attorney Edward Greim represented the General Assembly and those legislators responsible for drawing the maps in court. They contend that the "as compact as may be" language in the Constitution requires only a "reasonable" measure of compactness.
"Compactness basically means much closer to perfect compactness than to not be compact and you have to consider all the circumstances...we don't think anyone can define necessarily what all of those are, and the reason for that in part is because it is assigned to the legislature," Greim said.
When questioned about the compactness of the map he is defending, Greim said, "You can look at any of the other maps that we've ever had that the courts have said are compact...the test isn't whether it looks like a reptile, or an amphibian, or a dragon or something, its whether the territory is closely united enough to make a district and thats as good as we can do."
"I ask the court to not just uphold House Bill 193, but to do so in a way that gives the guidance necessary to the General Assembly in the future and for the commissions this year and in the future to know what it is they need to do," said State Solicitor James Layton in his closing arguments.
The Supreme Court could rule on the new maps as early as next week.