Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denies a voice to 40,000 voters in and around Lee’s Summit

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  • Mike Parson
    American politician
  • Rick Roeber
    Barefoot runner

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s refusal to do his job continues to hurt 40,000 residents in and around Lee’s Summit.

Last April, then-state Rep. Rick Roeber was expelled from office in disgrace, forced out by credible allegations from his adult children that he had abused them. The decision was necessary — and historic.

Roeber’s departure left his 34th District House seat vacant. For the rest of the 2021 session, and during the special session called later in the year, voters in parts of Lee’s Summit and areas to the south and east had no voice in the chamber.

That was bad enough. In fact, we asked Parson to call for a special election “without delay” to fill Roeber’s seat, as state law and the Missouri Constitution require him to do.

Alas, Parson did nothing. Now his inaction threatens fair representation for the 34th District well into the next session of the General Assembly.

Parson could call a special election for any date. Typically, however, governors call special elections for dates when voters are going to the polls for other reasons, to increase turnout and reduce overall costs to taxpayers.

The date to certify a question or campaign for the February ballot has passed. It now appears the earliest possible date for a regular election is April 5, which is just a few weeks before adjournment.

That means it’s likely voters in the district will go a full year without a representative in the House.

This is obviously unacceptable. This year, legislators will debate education reform, tax policy, criminal justice reform, the state’s COVID-19 response and more. They’ll also debate new districts for state legislators, including new boundaries for the 34th District.

Its residents deserve someone working in Jefferson City to protect their interests. Because of the governor’s inaction, they will be unrepresented, which insults the promise of one person, one vote.

“It’s just the principle of it,” said former state lawmaker Bob Johnson, who lives in the area.

In fact, legislators should examine a change in state law that would automatically call an election for a vacant seat at the next available general ballot, instead of forcing constituents to wait for the governor to get off his behind and call for a vote.

If the state constitution must be amended to achieve this goal, a question should be put on the August ballot next year.

Do not fall for the excuse that these voters are served by their state senator while the House seat remains empty. The House and Senate have different rules and approaches to governance. Full representation requires participation in both sides of the Capitol.

If not, why have a state House at all?

We asked Parson’s office to explain the delay. We got no response. We did get a news release that the governor has proclaimed December as Christmas Tree Month, though.

Parson should call for a special election as soon as possible, even if it costs additional money. Then he should apologize to the residents of the 34th District for the delay.

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