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Volunteer Article

The Animal Kingdom
The state House, a.k.a., Missouri's Animal Farm
Why Some Votes Are More Equal Than Others

January 25th, 2016
by Jon Schuessler

George Orwell’s dark fairy tale, Animal Farm, featured a revolution by the livestock against a bad farmer. The revolt was inspired by the phrase, “All Animals Are Equal”. By the novel’s end, however, corrupt pigs had changed the motto:

“All Animals Are Equal – But Some Are More Equal Than Others.”

What does this have to do with Missouri? Well, among other things, it turns out that our state legislature has its own “Animal Farm” system for representing us.

In the General Assembly, you see, all representatives and senators are equal, but some are more equal than others.

We were taught in school that our legislature is democratic – that every district has an equal say. My representative, for instance, carries the same influence as yours does.

Unfortunately, this “feel-good” message couldn’t be further from the truth. Voters in the House Speaker’s district have a lot more influence than voters in other districts. The same goes for the Senate President Pro Tem, or legislators who act as committee chairs, or party caucus leaders, all of whom have more “muscle” to get what they want for their district at the expense of their neighbors.

Instead of an assembly of equals, our state legislature is organized like a kingdom. Just like kings, the House Speaker and Senate President keep court. They hand out favors to their nobles, who in turn keep firm control over the peasant-legislators of their party.

Click here for an overview of the House structure

Sounds incredible? Let’s look at some facts:

Why does all of this matter? It matters because it makes some legislators more powerful than other legislators; which means that your vote doesn’t carry the same weight as other votes.

In other words, voters are not treated equally. There are winners and losers, haves and have-nots.

So much for what we were taught in school.

Power Map of the Missouri House
A map of the power distribution in the Missouri House.
Click to view fullsize maps

Can this situation be changed? It most certainly can. Many of the problems of unequal representation are the product of longstanding House rules and Senate rules. All it takes to get rid of them, is a simple majority vote of legislators who are willing to change the system.

There is an example proposal for change which you can view by clicking here. I believe this system would provide a much more even distribution of power among legislators, while also fighting special interests and partisan influence.

In the meantime, however, we’ll have to make do with the Kingdom state of Missouri. So cross your fingers, and pray that your representative is one of the “more equal” ones.

Jon Schuessler is a Volunteer leader in Jefferson County, and the chairman for Missouri Volunteers for Government Reform, a Political Action Committee (PAC) of the Volunteer Movement. Click here to read his bio or contact him.

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