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“The cause is a just one.” Former Republican congressman joins non-partisan redistricting effort

Feb 9, 2018

Michigan's 13th congressional district
Credit WikiCommons

Voters Not Politicians is the group working to get a proposal on the ballot to end gerrymandering. They are proposing that an independent commission draw congressional and legislative districts to avoid gerrymandering districts in favor of one party or another.

Some Republicans say Voters Not Politicians is a front-group for the Democrats. In fact, it’s likely a Republican-backed group will challenge the ballot initiative in court in an attempt to kill it before voters get their say in the matter.

Learn more: 5 things to know about the ballot proposal to end gerrymandering in Michigan

Now, a long-time Republican is joining the board of Voters Not Politicians. Former Congressman Joe Schwarz is now working with the group, and he joined Stateside to explain why.

Listen to the full interview above, or read highlights below.

On why he chose to back Voters Not Politicians

“The cause is a just one. Gerrymandering has become worse and worse and worse. Not only in Michigan, which is pretty well gerrymandered in a number of different ways, but other states, as well. There’s a Supreme Court case in Wisconsin on gerrymandering, North Carolina is terribly gerrymandered, other states may be considered by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court just ... insisted Pennsylvania reapportion immediately for the 2018 elections because their congressional districts were so badly gerrymandered.”

On the belief the proposal would be a “license to gerrymander”

“I just think [Republicans are] wrong on this. With all of the tools that the very intelligent people, very talented people that draw district lines . ..you can gerrymander in ways that it might be weeks or months before you wake up one morning and take a look at the map, and say ‘Oh good Lord, look at how badly we’ve been gerrymandered on this.’

Because it can be done, and it has been done. You take a look at some districts in southeast Michigan -- the 14th, of course, is the start on this one. The 14th, of course, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the United States.”

On the expected challenge by People to Protect Voters’ Rights

“The argument to defend the initiative is simply this: It is a citizens’ initiative done entirely by volunteers. There is absolutely no partisan affiliation whatsoever, and if you come to our meetings, you can see the people coming there are basically people who aren’t particularly partisan themselves, they want to learn a little bit about this issue. And when they learn about it, they take a look and say, ‘good Lord, we really didn’t know how badly we were gerrymandered in Michigan.’

I think if people take a look at it, they’ll understand it’s the right thing to do for our state. If our elections are approximately 50/50 in partisan votes every two years in a general election ... and our state Senate is 27 to 11 Republican, and our state House is 63-47 Republican, you can understand that some heavy-duty gerrymandering is being done. And it really isn't good. It really isn’t good. We need to have good, strong general elections. We do not need to have many of our congressional and many of our legislative seats decided by primaries.”