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Letter to the Editor: Politicians’ gerrymandering scheme will hurt Springfield’s economy

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Dear editor,

President Ronald Reagan called gerrymandering “anti-democratic and un-American.”

Missouri voters agree: 62% of us voted in 2018 to outlaw gerrymandering in our state legislative maps. The people’s plan created more independence, transparency and competition so voters can hold our leaders accountable, if they fail to act in the public interest. The broad coalition included former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, R-Missouri; AARP Missouri; and Missouri Faith Voices.

But now, the Missouri legislature is trying to ram gerrymandering into our state constitution – with Amendment 3 on our ballot Nov. 3. It would create safe districts for almost all Democrats and Republicans, so they can ignore voters back home and still get reelected every November. This would be horrible for our republic and for Springfield’s small businesses, employees and economy.

Fortunately, we can stop it.

Springfield’s delegation understands how bad this is. Thank you Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, for voting “no” in the Senate this spring. Rep. Steve Helms, R-Springfield, and Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, voted against a similar proposal last year.

The consequences of gerrymandering are devastating.

Safe districts for both parties mean more extremism and less collaboration to solve problems and create jobs.

The legislature’s plan removes independence, transparency and gives the political parties more power. It takes away Missourians’ constitutional rights to see the data and sue if the maps are rigged.

Politics is often controlled by big money, and this would make it worse: The politicians won’t have to worry about their voters back home. Small businesses can’t afford tens of millions of dollars to get their attention.

Areas with businesses that employ young families, like Springfield, would likely lose representation in the legislature. The vaguely written proposal opens the door to counting only the Missourians who are eligible to vote, which means families with young children lose representation.

If that happens, Missouri would be America’s first and only state to not count children or green card holders. The publicity alone could lose Missouri jobs, like when sporting events and conventions boycotted North Carolina and Arizona because of extreme laws that targeted one group or another.

How do politicians think they'll get away with this irresponsible self-protection plan? With deceptive and tricky language: lowering some campaign contribution limits by $100 and lobbyist gift limits by $5. If that sounds absurd, it's because it is. The real goal is to bend the system around to protect politicians and to stop voters from holding them accountable.

In business and in politics, the playing field needs to be equal. We need to stick to fair rules and stop picking winners and losers to suit special interests.

When we go to the polls, we expect our vote to be honored. In the last election, an overwhelming bipartisan majority from across Missouri created a fair system. But these politicians now say that “Missourians didn't understand what they were voting on” and are spending their time undermining voters instead of solving real problems.

I’m a conservative Republican, but no matter your party, I call on all business owners to vote “no” on the politicians’ extreme gerrymandering plan, Amendment 3 – on Nov. 3.

We must protect Springfield’s and Missouri’s economies.

We can’t afford gerrymandering.

–Mark Burgess, of Springfield, owner of Burgess Aircraft Management/OzAir Charter Service

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