elections/campaigns

Redrawing Columbia’s wards proves puzzling for representatives, residents

Explanatory feature on reapportionment of the City of Columbia’s political districts / 1557 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Louis Wilson occupies a rare place in Columbia. What makes him — and his neighbors — unusual is location, location, location.

Anecdotally, many people in Columbia don’t know which of the city’s six wards they live in. As communications director of the Historic West Broadway Association, however, Wilson knows his neighborhood is one of few in the city that straddle two wards, in his case the First and the Fourth.

Because each ward elects one representative to the Columbia City Council, Wilson and his neighbors have the benefit of being able to bend the ears of two council members.

“That may be a stupid type of political addition, but it seems to make sense,” Wilson said. He spoke as an individual citizen, not on behalf of his neighborhood association. “It’s nice to have access to two parties.”

The issues of access and representation are central to the debate over how to redraw the city’s ward boundaries. Equalizing ward populations was the primary goal of ward reapportionment, but the committee charged with the task was also directed by the council to avoid splitting neighborhoods. Aside from neighborhoods, any number of constituencies can be concentrated in one ward or spread among them.