Time to do away with gerrymandering and leave redistricting to a nonpartisan commission

Not only did the Nov. 6 election give President Obama a mandate for the continuation of his economic policies, but once again more people cast votes for Democrats in Michigan, but both the Michigan and U.S. House remain in Republican control.

In a post analysis of the election, longtime political pundit Bill Ballenger noted the gerrymandering of House districts allowed Republicans to keep seats.

“For the second straight decade, the U.S. House map has to considered a master germander,” he wrote in his month newsletter “Inside Michigan Politics.”

Every 10 years the district geographic boundaries for the U.S. and Michigan House and Michigan Senate are redrawn based on population data from the U.S. Census, and that occurred last summer. The party in control of the House and Senate draw the district boundaries.

Ballenger noted that in 2002 the U.S. House map that was drawn turned what had been a 9-7 Democratic edge into a 9-6 GOP advantage after we lost a seat. That ratio remained that way until this month’s election with a 9-5 edge despite the fact that the 14 Democratic nominees got 240,000 more vote than their GOP rivals.

It was even worse in the Michigan House where the Republicans who drew the districts shoved as many Democrats into predominately Democratic areas, making the districts resemble clouds with every imaginable shape and size. Democrats picked up six seats on Nov. 6, but Republicans still hold a 59-51 lead. They kept that lead despite Democratic nominees receiving 54.4 percent of the votes cast on Nov. 6 to Republicans getting only 45.6 percent. Despite Democratic nominees getting nearly 350,000 more votes, Republicans hold an eight seat advantage.

The gerrymandering of districts hurts democracy by creating uncompetitive districts so that representatives are less accountable to voters, and people have no idea what district they live in and who represents them. In Monroe’s two state House districts, people who live just blocks away in the City of Monroe are represented by two different people.

Now, far away from the heat of drawing district maps, is the time to establish a nonpartisan commission – like Arizona and Iowa – to draw the districts that are as square as possible, make sense to geographic boundaries, ensures the districts are fair and competitive and makes politicians more accountable to voters and takes the process out of the hands of politicians.

In 2011 people were angry at the speed in which the maps were drawn and the lack of transparency and input from stakeholders. The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative, a coalition of non-profits from all segments of the community, including business, labor and public interest, was formed to give people a larger voice in the process. The coalition believes that redistricting must be more transparent and open, with more involvement from the public, and they travelled across the state gathering input and feedback from the public.

Despite that massive effort, the maps and the 562 page bill were approved in near record time last year, and the maps were drawn by a member of the House Republican Campaign Committee, in charge of getting Republicans elected to the House, and the former Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party.

Now – far from the heat of an election – is the time to make elections fair, open and convenient for as many people as possible with things like no reason absentee voting and early voting and a nonpartisan commission for drawing districts to make sure the people elected are more responsible to those who vote.


Communications Guru
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