A state appeals court finalized language for one of the most controversial items on the ballot this fall after a months-long legal fight.

At issue was a Republican-sponsored proposal that asks voters to reverse key parts of a redistricting overhaul voters themselves approved in 2018.

Republicans described their proposal with no mention of repeal, prompting supporters of the 2018 proposal, known as Clean Missouri, to cry foul.

Two courts ultimately agreed the legislature erred, and on Aug. 31, a Western District Court of Appeals panel wrote that the original language failed to acknowledge lawmakers’ full intentions. They then rewrote the question as follows:

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;

Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;

Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.”

That language became final Wednesday after lawmakers declined to appeal and the court rejected a request from Clean Missouri supporters to modify the language further.

Behind the legalese is a highly charged debate over the future of electoral districts that Missouri’s state representatives and senators will represent after the latest redistricting cycle next year.

Prior to 2018, maps were to be drawn by commissions appointed by the governor that focused on drawing compact shapes. If the half-Republican, half-Democrat commissions deadlocked on a map, appellate judges took over.

The “Clean Missouri” initiative created a new “demographer" position to draft districts aimed at producing more competitive elections and an assembly that better reflects the statewide vote.

That’s key: the two parties have been far more evenly matched in races for governor and U.S. Senate than they have been in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Since passage of Clean Missouri, the old commissions will still review the maps, but unless they have a two-thirds vote, the demographer’s draft is final.

Republicans now want to scrap the demographer and put concerns about competitive elections on the back burner.

ahuguelet@news-leader.com