Map of the new Community Improvement District in Columbia, Missouri
Normally gerrymandering in a medium-sized town that doesn't even pertain to city council elections would be too down-in-the-weeds, but this story from the Columbia Tribune is too funny to ignore. Self-interested business owners successfully petitioned the Columbia, Missouri, city council to create a local Community Improvement District, which would have the authority to impose a half-cent sales tax increase with voter approval. However, the district lines were drawn in a manner that attempted to avoid containing any eligible voters, meaning that property-owners themselves would get to decide on the sales tax increase as a way to avoid further property taxes to pay for improvements.
Unfortunately for them, things didn't exactly go according to plan. It soon became known that a single voter, University of Missouri student Jen Henderson, was registered to vote in the new CID. That means that she alone will get to decide whether or not to approve the sales tax increase. The CID has already gone into debt to finance planned improvements and was counting on the increased revenue from the sales tax increase.
Predictably, Henderson is not pleased with how manipulative this process has been. She was even asked to de-register so that the vote would revert to property owners. While Henderson hasn't publicly stated which way she plans to vote, she sounded skeptical of the proposed sales tax increase and rightfully pointed out how it is regressive in nature while the benefits accrue mainly to incumbent businesses.
In a delicious twist of irony, if Henderson votes against the sales tax increase or the vote is called off entirely, the only way for the CID to pay off its debts will be to levy further taxes on property, which is exactly what these businesses were trying to avoid. Most of the time gerrymandering is successful and unfair, but instances like this show it can sometimes backfire spectacularly.
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