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Fate of gerrymandering up for vote

By Lydia Sandefur
On November 1, 2018

Michigan's oddly-shaped 14th congressional district, is one example of political gerrymandering

This November, Michigan voters will be given the opportunity to choose how their vote counts.
Voting districts are drawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census is tallied, and in many states, including Michigan, these districts are drawn by the Legislature. 
Because of their desire to stay in office, many people fear politicians often create districts in which their party is more likely to win.
This process is called gerrymandering and, according to a Princeton study, both major political parties are guilty of it.
According to Emma Winowiecki of Michigan Radio, Michigan has become one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.
“Democrats won over half of the votes for state House in 2016,” Winowiecki said. “But Republicans won most of the seats.”
Michgan Republican’s redrew district lines in 2010.
MCCC student Aleija Rodriguez says the problem needs to be addressed.
“Gerrymandering has become a national epidemic that has received some attention but is being blockaded by most politicians,” he said. “It unfairly turns districts into colors instead of people and determines the winners of elections long before the election itself is held.”
The group Voters Not Politicians has led the effort to change the tide on the issue of gerrymandering. 
They have proposed a change to the state constitution which removes the redistricting power from the politicians and puts it in the hands of an independent commission. 
This change will be up for vote as Proposal 2 on Nov. 6.
According to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the proposed commission would consist of four Democrat-affiliated, four Republican-affiliated, and five independent members, all randomly selected and overseen by the Secretary of State. 
The commissioners cannot be elected officials, nor can they run as an elected official.
In addition, they cannot run for office for five years after their appointment to the commission.
The commissioners are not required to have any political or policy experience, they are simply supposed to represent the general population of Michigan.
While Proposal 2 eliminates the legislature from the redistricting process, the role of the Secretary of State will expand. 
Not only will the Secretary of State oversee the selection process for commissioners, he or she will also act as a non-voting member of the commission tasked with determining the logistics of the redistricting and providing technical support to the commission.
In addition to the Secretary of State, commissioners will also be allowed to hire consultants and staff to help collect and analyze the data while planning.
The proposal also requires a minimum of 15 public hearings throughout the one-year allotted planning period. 
This is to ensure that the public has input and that the commission is well informed while making their decisions. 
All of this does come at a cost.
James Lancaster, an attorney representing Voters Not Politicians detailed some of the expected costs in an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press
“The commission is expected to cost at least an extra $5.5 million a year,” Lancaster said. “Based on a formula by which an amount equal to 25% of the current budget of the Michigan Secretary of State would be appropriated to support its work.”
An analysis by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan concludes the proposal gives the citizens an important choice about the redistricting process.
“The changes set about in Proposal 2 pose a choice to voters of what is more important in redistricting; transparency and imposition against bias, or accountability and efficiency. The amendment would improve voters’ access to the redistricting process.”
MCCC student Joseph Manley agrees with the proposal, especially the importance of the strength of the individual vote.
“I believe giving redistricting power to an independent committee, over partisan legislatures, brings more strength to an individual’s vote,” Manley said. “The current system has had a history of politicians drawing districts in a way that benefits them and their party during elections.
“Independent redistricting attempts to remove partisan agendas from the equation. Proposal 2 gives more Michiganders the chance to have representational congresspeople and give the rest of the nation something to follow.” 
While to many, Proposal 2 is a welcomed change, it is not without opposition. 
A lawsuit by a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce claimed the changes the proposal would make to the constitution would be too broad.
They say such a change should only be made at a constitutional convention.
According to Michigan Radio, a lawsuit was taken to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled 4-3 against the argument, ensuring the proposal’s spot on the ballot.
Whether or not Proposal 2 will be accepted is to be determined by Michiganders on Nov. 6.

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