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Tipsheet

Gerrymandering Gives Missouri College Student Sole Vote On Policy

In principle, there’s nothing wrong with gerrymandering. The process of creating congressional districts that are more favorable to the party in charge is to be expected. Gerrymandering is often blamed for the increasing partisan politics in Washington, though that’s probably due to the toxic nature of President Obama's policies. The Washington Post published three articles that undercut the anti-gerrymandering narrative, with The Fix’s Philip Bump writing, “the idea that we've moved away from some golden era of hard-fought contests between cigar-chompin' politicians simply isn't true.”

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George Washington University’s John Sides wrote in 2013 that gerrymandering gave no advantage to Republicans during the 2010 midterms. He was comparing the 2010 and 2012 results in this context.

“If we assume that nothing else affects House election outcomes but the partisanship of the districts—in other words, if we allow redistricting to have its maximum possible effect—we find that the 2011 redistricting cost Democrats 7 seats in 2012,” he wrote.

Yet, in Missouri, it’s not wonky data crunching that makes gerrymandering interesting. It’s the fact that a single college student has the sole vote in whether a sales tax will be increased (via Columbia Daily Tribune):

A mistake by representatives of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District means a sales tax increase the district needs to thrive will require approval by a single University of Missouri student.

On Feb. 28, Jen Henderson, 23, became the sole registered voter living within the community improvement district, or CID, meaning she is the only person who would vote on a half-cent sales tax increase for the district.

The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The “qualified voters” in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote.

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Many homes surrounding the university-owned property where Henderson resides were not included in the district when it was drawn because district organizers wanted a district free of residents.

In other words, it’s as if the movie "Swing Vote," starring Kevin Costner, actually came true but on a much, much smaller scale.

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