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gerrymandering

Voters Not Politicians

A grassroots group of citizen activists opposed to partisan gerrymandering is making rapid progress toward its goal of getting a redistricting proposal on the ballot in Michigan in 2018.

An all-volunteer force, about 4,ooo strong and spread over 83 Michigan counties, has collected about 450,000 voter signatures in four months. That's according to Katie Fahey, president of the ballot committee called Voters Not Politicians.

"We have blown our goal out of the water," said Fahey.

The origin of the term "gerrymandering" comes from a political cartoon from March of 1812. This was drawn in reaction to the newly-drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor
J. Albert Bowden II / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you’ve been to a fall festival or any kind of carnival in the state lately, chances are there was a booth there for Voters Not Politicians.

That group is gathering signatures to get a proposal on the ballot. It wants an independent commission to draw the congressional and legislative districts to avoid gerrymandering districts in favor of one party or the other.

Michigan's oddly-shaped 14th congressional district, currently represented by Brenda Lawrence, is one example of political gerrymandering.
Public Domain

There's ballot petition currently circulating that seeks to end gerrymandering in Michigan.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the format of the petition on August 17, and the group spearheading the campaign, Voters Not Politicians, has been collecting signatures since then.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I struggled with how exactly to draw a gerrymander statue. My initial instinct was to draw it as an abstract monster because that's where the term came from. In 1812 a Governor Gerry in Massachusetts signed a bill to redistrict his state to benefit his political party. 

David Daley's book "Ratf**ked"
Liveright, 2017


If they know what it is, most people despise gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative or congressional districts largely based on partisan advantage. It’s hated, unless it's your party that's benefiting.

Last year, Stateside talked with David Daley, a former editor-in-chief of Salon and the author of Ratf**ked:Why Your Vote Doesn't Count, a book that deals with this very issue. Stateside​ host Lester Graham caught up with him to discuss the second edition's new epilogue on the 2016 election.

Michigan State University sign
MSU

This week, Michigan State University denied a request from a white supremacist group to rent space on campus. The university said it denied the request due to safety concerns following the violence that broke out last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Southeast Michgian's Congressional districts post-2010 redistricting.
Michigan House of Representatives

Democrats in Michigan and a handful of other states need to win some statewide races by 2020. Otherwise, they risk ensuring Republican majorities for another decade--even if Democrats get more votes at election time.

For months, a dedicated group of citizens calling themselves Voters, not Politicians, has struggled to come up with a way to give control of drawing legislative districts back to the people. The idea is to ensure fair, sensible and competitive representation to everyone.

That may sound like arcane political science babble, but it is not. Most of us are being effectively denied choices because of gross partisan gerrymandering done to ensure continuous Republican control of government.

voting booths
user eyspahn / Flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A grassroots group that wants to get an anti-gerrymandering proposal on the 2018 ballot is looking to make progress this week.

Voters Not Politicians is the non-partisan group in charge of the effort. It wants to change how the state draws its district lines.

The Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to approve or reject the form of the petition. It will look at things like font size and which portions of the constitution are referenced. This is meant to prevent lawsuits for improper format down the road.

Michigan's current congressional districts.
Department of the Interior

The founders of our system attempted to give this country, and later this state, something called representative democracy.

That’s supposed to mean electing people we trust to represent our best interests to make laws for the state and nation. That generally worked pretty well. Not that it was perfect, and for a long time some of us were shut out of participating. But eventually that got fixed.

A "vote here" sign
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

"Power to the people."

That slogan so widely used in the 1960s is the driving force behind a push to change the way Michigan draws its legislative and Congressional districts.

The group Voters Not Politicians has firmed up language for a voter petition to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 2018.

The amendment would overhaul Michigan's redistricting process.

A photograph of the Michigan Capitol building
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio file photo

How much do you trust state government and its ability to do its job?

Two of the biggest topics of the week when it comes to Michigan politics involved the proposal to mandate employers to let workers earn paid sick time and the effort to put gerrymandering on the ballot in 2018.
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress last night. This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about issues Trump touched on that resonate in Michigan, including a proposed $1 trillion investment in infrastructure nationwide.

The origin of the term "gerrymandering" comes from a political cartoon from March of 1812. This was drawn in reaction to the newly-drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor
J. Albert Bowden II / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you ask a roomful of voters if they think gerrymandering is an issue, it's a fair bet most of the people would raise their hands, regardless whether they were a Republican, Democrat, or independent.

There are several groups in the state looking at the issue for the 2020 the ballot. The group Voters Not Politicians is not waiting that long. It wants to put something on the ballot in 2018.

John Aucher / AuchterToon.com

All of our money (as in United States of America legal tender) has the motto, "In God We Trust." Our coins also have "E pluribus unum" (out of many, one) and "Liberty." They are there, I believe, as reminders of who we are and would like to be as Americans.

It may get a little crowded (especially on the dime), but I humbly submit that we should add one more:

"We are a country of action; lies do not become us."

A legal battle over redistricting in Michigan could soon be underway.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Letters are being sent to some 60 attorneys, legislators and ex-legislators, staffers and ex-staffers, Governor Rick Snyder, and many others, telling them: Anything you have related to the 2011 redistricting process, you better keep it. We’re talking drafts of maps, emails, instructions, and confidential analysis.

MATTHILEO / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This week, Republicans and Democrats in Lansing seem to agree that it’s time to expand the state’s open record laws to cover the governor and the Legislature. Michigan is one of only a couple states that don’t already require all lawmakers to be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, along with Vicki Barnett, a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside and said it might not be smooth sailing to the governor's desk. 

Here are three examples of how messed-up and dysfunctional Michigan government has become.

First, last fall the Democrats had a candidate for state representative who had been convicted of eight felonies, charged with three more, and who had cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 thanks to a sexual harassment suit filed against him by an aide.


Michigan Republican Party

His only opposition bowed out of the race last weekend. Now, University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser is in line to succeed Ronna Romney McDaniel as chairman of Michigan's Republican Party.

McDaniel is the new head of the Republican National Committee.

Weiser was state party chair from 2009-11 and he joined Stateside to talk about the job, the state of the Republican Party and why it was "duty not desire" that drove him back to the chairman role.

The origin of the term "gerrymandering" comes from a political cartoon from March of 1812. This was drawn in reaction to the newly-drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor
J. Albert Bowden II / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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 Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

Michigan's House Democrats are looking to take control of the chamber this November, but that won't be easy.

The Democrats need to win at least 56 of 110 seats to have a House majority. They currently hold 46.

The Associated Press reports that the Democrats do have some advantages that should spur optimism going into the November election. 

More from the Associated Press:

There's a new book out about gerrymandering, but it's so much more than that. 

And it's getting a lot of attention.

Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, we sipped Brewery Becker’s “historic” ales and lagers while discussing a similarly historic topic: public trust in state government.

The Flint water crisis, gerrymandering, term limits, campaign money and more were on the minds of audience members and panelists at our Issues & Ale event.

There's an argument that Michigan's system of redistricting - the decennial redrawing of legislative districts - distorts the voters' will.

Groups such as Common Cause and, recently, the League of Women Voters have made efforts to find a better way to redraw the congressional and legislative maps. That most recent effort died quietly earlier this month. 

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

An article in The Free Press reported 2016 is "shaping up as a raucous and competitive election season with incumbent politicians facing strong challenges up and down the ballot, and a presidential race that could influence the control of every race."

Rick Pluta and Zach Gorchow join us to talk about upcoming State Representative races, voter turnout, and how the Michigan legislature might change after this election year.

As we head into the final month of 2015, campaigns in Michigan are already ramping up for Election 2016.

user jdurham / morguefile

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss how student growth will be a big part of teacher evaluations this year, why redistricting won't happen, and what will happen to the political careers of Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat after the sex scandal


This political cartoon was printed in 1812 in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts Legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry.
Elkanah Tisdale / Boston Centinel, 1812

Michigan Radio and Public Sector Consultants conducted a poll of 600 likely voters from Aug. 4-8 about how they felt financially, possible changes in redistricting, and the potential legalization of recreational marijuana.

In terms of those saying they're better off, Jeff Williams, CEO of Public Sector Consultants says things look relatively "rosy" for Michigan. More than half say they're "about the same," and around a quarter of them say they're "better off."

Non-partisan commission would make more Michigan votes count

Jul 27, 2015
Michigan House Republicans

A counterpoint to this essay can be found here

The Next Idea

Everybody who sets foot in a voting booth wants to know that their vote counts just as much as the vote of the next person in line. Faith in our democratic system rests on fair and representative elections.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s political map has been manipulated to the point that not all votes count the same. Politicians have drawn political districts so that in many places around our state, who wins or loses is a foregone conclusion long before the end of election night. They created the political map this way in order to give themselves and their party a head start in an election, much to the detriment of our democracy and your vote.

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