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Democratic lawmaker to propose redistricting reform in Michigan

Jul 6, 2015

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow voters to take the authority to draw congressional district lines away from state legislatures and give it to independent commissions has many Democrats and progressives in Michigan very happy.

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

There’s been lots of rejoicing among those who’ve hated gerrymandering – the drawing of district lines to benefit one party over the over.

GOP control

For the past fifteen years Michigan Republicans have dominated the redistricting process because they’ve been in control when the lines have been drawn. So, for Democrats, the Holy Grail is some kind of redistricting reform: taking the power of drawing district lines away lawmakers and giving it to an independent commission.

Redistricting legislation

Democratic state Representative Jon Hoadley will introduce legislation in the next week or two (including a proposed amendment to the state constitution) to establish a Michigan redistricting commission.

“I’m working on non-partisan redistricting to make sure voters actually pick their elected officials instead of politicians deciding which voters they want to have in their districts to vote for them,” Hoadley told It’s Just Politics.

Not so fast

Republicans however are not at all ready to hand over control of redistricting. So anything by way of an overhaul to the system is a lot more likely to happen via a petition drive to get a question on the issue on the 2016 ballot.

Whether it be legislation or a ballot drive, Democrats believe that with an independent commission, they would get better lines with fewer “safe” Republican districts and more districts that either lean Democratic or are, at least, competitive.

Meanwhile, progressive groups, the Michigan League of Women Voters and Common Cause will soon begin a public engagement campaign to try and get people interested in the issue and to forge a coalition to put something on the ballot.

Ballot politics

But a ballot campaign is certainly not a sure thing. Democrats, unions, and progressives put a question regarding collective bargaining on the ballot in 2012 and not only did they get spanked in November but Republican lawmakers then came back in the “lame duck” legislative session and piled on the punishment by making Michigan a “right-to-work” state.

Republicans must be pretty confident that they’ll hang onto control of the state House, state Senate, and the governor’s office if they’re willing to continue to leave redistricting up to the state Legislature. And that they’ll control redistricting for a third time in a row.

But if they don’t, we could see a lot of people changing their tune on the importance of redistricting reform.

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Rick and Zoe speak with Stateside's Cynthia Canty about the idea of an independent commission to draw district lines in Michigan:

  Note: A correction has been made to clarify that the ballot question in 2012 had to do with collective bargaining rights.