(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri judge refused a last-moment request to delay Tuesday’s scheduled start of candidacy filing for the state Senate, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over would-be candidates wondering whether to sign up to run in districts with boundaries in flux.
Under Missouri law, candidacy filing is to run from Tuesday through March 27 for federal, state and county offices that will be on the 2012 ballot. But Missouri still has no final map setting the state Senate district boundaries based on the 2010 census.
The Supreme Court last month struck down new Senate boundaries that had been approved by a special judicial panel after the census. That forced the Senate redistricting process to start from scratch. Last week, a new bipartisan commission appointed by the governor approved a tentative plan for the Senate districts. But that plan must go through a 15-day public comment period before it can be finalized.
Because the new Senate districts remain in limbo, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has said she must open candidacy filing with people still signing up to run under the districts created after the 2000 census.
A lawsuit Columbia attorney David Brown filed Monday on behalf of a western Missouri woman argued those 2000 districts now are “outdated and constitutionally suspect.” The suit sought a temporary restraining order delaying the start of candidacy filing for state Senate seats by 15 days, or until a final map has been submitted to the secretary of state’s office.
During a hastily called hearing later Monday, Attorney General Chris Koster – whose office defends the state against lawsuits – agreed that a temporary restraining order should be issued. With Koster at his side, deputy solicitor general Jeremiah Morgan told a judge that blocking the start of candidacy filing for the state Senate would provide some certainty for the secretary of state’s office.
But Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green denied the request for a temporary restraining order.
“The Circuit Court of Cole County does not run the state of Missouri – that’s something for someone else to figure out,” Green said.
Green’s decision means someone could file for a Senate district Tuesday based on the 2000 census districts, only to have new boundaries adopted in coming weeks that put the person’s residence in a different district.
Although perhaps the most confusing situation, the state Senate districts are not the only ones unsettled.
The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on a challenge to the new state House districts adopted by a judicial panel after the 2010 census. The state Supreme Court also has yet to rule on a legal challenge to Missouri’s new congressional districts adopted by state lawmakers after the recent census.
Unlike the state Senate districts, filing for the Missouri and U.S. House seats will open based on the new boundaries.