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Missouri Court Decision Dings Carnahan

A Missouri circuit court today ruled against a group of citizens hoping to overturn the Show-Me State’s Congressional redistricting maps on the grounds that they did not meet state constitutional muster.

That’s bad news for Rep. Russ Carnahan, whose current district was essentially eliminated in last year’s redraw. The new map puts him in the same district as fellow Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, setting up the potential of a Member-vs.-Member race.

Carnahan, a four-term Congressman, supported the plaintiffs’ case and had hoped for a court to draw him a new district where he could comfortably run.

The plaintiffs argued that the new lines, passed over the Democratic governor’s veto, did not meet the state constitutional requirement for compactness. The circuit court had earlier dismissed the case but the state Supreme Court ordered the lower court to look at the merits of the compactness claim more closely. The court did that over the course of a short trial and, today, the judge tartly decided not to rule in the plaintiffs’ favor.

“[T]his Court declines Plaintiffs’ invitation to engage in a never-ending game of one-upmanship in a constant search for the ultimate map,” Judge Daniel R. Green wrote in his opinion, released this evening. “Accordingly, judgment is entered against the Plaintiffs,” he concluded.

In a statement, Carnahan indicated there would be an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

“Over the past year, we have fought for fair representation for Missouri voters against a gerrymandered map drawn by the Republican legislature that divides communities,” he said. “I have always believed this issue would be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court, which unanimously ordered this review on the grounds that the maps do not pass constitutional muster.”

But the state’s high court did not actually say that the maps did not pass constitutional muster.

“That is inaccurate,” said Todd Graves, an attorney representing the defendants, who is also the brother of Missouri Rep. Sam Graves (R). “What they said was the trial court has to hear the case. They didn’t make any decision in the previous ruling on whether the maps passed constitutional muster or not.”

“What they said was, ‘you have to hear the evidence and make a decision,'” he explained to Roll Call. “The [state] Supreme Court didn’t take a position one way or another.”

Asked about the discrepancy, Sam Drzymala, a spokesman for Carnahan attempted to clarify.

“As Rep. Carnahan said, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered the review of the maps to assess their constitutionality — they will have an opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the maps soon,” he said in a statement.

Asked about the potential for an appeal, Graves said he felt good about the case moving forward.

“I’m pretty confident about where we’re at,” he said. “We’re thrilled with the win today.”

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