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Gerrymandered voting districts are "breeding grounds for insane politicians"

Jan 3, 2017

In March of 1812, the Boston Gazette printed a political cartoon that showed the bizarre and twisted shape of a newly-redrawn election district.

The paper was responding to redistricting of the Massachusetts state Senate districts pushed through by Governor Elbridge Gerry. The redistricting certainly benefited the governor's Democratic-Republican Party.

The Gazette cartoonist thought one of those redrawn districts resembled a salamander. So he drew that district as a monstrous salamander with horned wings, fangs and a viper's tongue, and, in a hat tip to the governor, called it a "Gerry-mander".

That word is still used today when the majority political party draws the electoral map in its favor.

But how has gerrymandering affected the state of Michigan? Tom Perkins' recent piece in the Metro Times took a closer look and joined Stateside to talk about it. 

The headline in Perkins' article says it all: Once again, Michigan Dems receive more votes in the State House, but Republicans hold onto power.

Based on the numbers provided by the Secretary of State, Democrats received roughly 18,000 more votes in 2016, and yet, because of the way the voting districts were gerrymandered by Republicans in 2010, Republicans hold a significant majority in the House (63-47).

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According to Perkins, one of the negative byproducts of gerrymandering is that it creates "breeding grounds for insane politicians."

He references examples like the scandal involving Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat and how difficult it was to get them removed from office. Another was Dave Agema, who made several controversial statements during his time in office, including sharing social media posts from the Ku-Klux Klan.

Another problem, according to Perkins, is that Republicans can push through unpopular legislation and it won't affect their chances of being re-elected. The emergency manager law and the ban on wolf hunting were both struck down by Michigan voters, only to be recreated in the Legislature and later signed by the governor. 

Listen to the full interview to hear about efforts in Wisconsin and Arizona to fight gerrymandering, and what Perkins means when he says the process is a "legal form of election theft".

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