Lincoln County, Missouri, with a population of just over 50,000, seems like a nice enough place.
The county seat of Troy has grown by about 3,000 people since the last census. It’s one of those small towns that can boast a quaint Main Street shopping district along with a short commute to big-city attractions. It’s only 60 miles from St. Louis.
It would take a lot longer to make the drive across the state to St. Joseph. But in the future, one thing Lincoln County could boast is having an elected member of Congress who represents not just Troy but also St. Joseph and other parts of Northwest Missouri.
Every 10 years, Missouri’s state lawmakers draw new maps for the state’s congressional districts. This year’s process should prove easier because the state didn’t lose a congressional seat in reapportionment, but the first draft still generated plenty of criticism.
Boone County is lumped in with a large rural section of the state between Kansas City and Springfield, a move that some may see as an attempt to dilute the Democratic vote in Columbia. Some Republican lawmakers told media outlets that the map was too accommodating to Democrats and that Missouri could lose its status as a reliably red state.
In Northwest Missouri, the map might be met with puzzlement more than partisan outrage. The 32-county 6th congressional district would lean Republican, although the inclusion of suburban areas like Clay County near Kansas City and Lincoln County outside St. Louis could prove to be a moderating factor. Those are the kinds of areas where elections are won and lost these days.
For those in Northwest Missouri, the concern might come from the prospect of one day having an elected representative in Congress who lives closer to Cape Girardeau than Tarkio. (To be fair, Lincoln County might not be too thrilled to have its representative living within shouting distance of Nebraska).
More than anything, this proposed redistricting map, which still needs the approval of the General Assembly and the governor, doesn’t reflect partisan machinations as much as simple arithmetic. The 2020 Census put Missouri’s population at just more than 6 million. With eight congressional districts, each one will need to encompass about 750,000 people.
If the northern part of the state isn’t growing in terms of population, then the congressional district is going to have to cover a larger area. If not Lincoln County, then someplace else.
There are better options, like the inclusion of more counties along the Missouri River in central Missouri, instead of going into the outer suburbs of St. Louis. Short of that, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves might want to buy a Cardinals hat and enter a float in the Troy Fourth of July parade.