Redistricting, then and now (audio)

Jun 29, 2011

The new redistricting maps drawn up by the Republican majorities in the Michigan Legislature are unveiled and Democrats are not happy.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry gives some historical context to the upcoming fight over redistricting.  He spoke to Michigan Radio's Jenn White.  You can here the interview here.

The rules are different than they used to be, but basically all districts should have the same population, for congressional districts, exactly the same, according to Lessenberry. State legislative districts can have up to a 5% variation.

He says this was not the case in the 1960's.

"Before the U. S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960's there was no requirement that they have the same population. So you had, in the case of Michigan, both congressional districts and legislative districts that were several times larger than one or the other one, and they each got one representative."

Lessenberry gives us a lesson on gerrymandering and explains the origin of the term. In 1812, Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts presided over the drawing of a district that was shaped as a salamander.

"Political cartoonists had a field day with it and they called the process of improper political redistricting, to give a candidate partisan advantage became gerrymandering, and that has sort of continued to this day."

Historically, voters in Michigan have not had any influence on how the maps are drawn, according to Lessenberry.

"Because of gerrymandering, a million and a half Michiganders votes don't count. Some states have a public process. Now in 7 states, Minnesota is the closest one, they do it by an independent bi-partisan or non-partisan commission. And there is some sentiment among the general public to do that here, trouble is politicians don't want to let go of the process. "

 

-Mercedes Mejia, Michigan Radio News