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Political roundup: Gerrymandering a problem, but is an independent commission the answer?

Mar 3, 2017

When it comes to Michigan politics, two of this week's biggest topics were a proposal to mandate that employers let workers earn paid sick time and an effort to put gerrymandering on the ballot in 2018.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, and Vicki Barnett, former mayor of Farmington Hills and a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside to sort out the issues.

The group Voters Not Politicians wants to put a measure on the ballot that would change how redistricting maps are drawn to avoid gerrymandering. They’re gathering signatures, but it’s being done with volunteers. With a recently implemented limit of gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures within 180 days, what are the chances we’ll see this on the ballot in 2018?

"I think the best shot at addressing gerrymandering at this point, is through the courts," Barnett said. "On Wednesday, the gerrymandered districts in Virginia were just struck down and this is on the heels of a decision in Wisconsin. So clearly, there's a move on the decisions of the courts that some of these compacting of districts is not legal and it shouldn't be done."

When Katie Fahey, a representative from Voters Not Politicians, joined Stateside earlier in the week, she said even if it's proven district lines are drawn unconstitutionally, the process will likely head back to politicians who have something to gain from shaping the system in their favor.

Sikkema said he doesn't think an independent commission is the answer to gerrymandering.

"Gerrymandering isn't done without standards," Sikkema said. "No matter what standards you have, standards are going to be manipulated." 

Elsewhere, Representative Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, introduced a bill that would require employers to let workers earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. 

Listen to the full interview above to hear why Barnett thinks there is enough support in Michigan to pass a bill like Rep. Chang's and why Sikkema completely disagrees.

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