Efforts Afoot to End Michigan Gerrymandering

Interest in ending partisan redistricting that results in heavily gerrymandered districts is on the rise. (To learn more about redistricting and gerrymandering, read here and here.)

In Michigan, there is an effort to replace the hyperpartisan redistricting process with a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Currently, that effort exists as legislation, introduce by state Reps. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield. There may also be an effort to put that proposal before voters in the form of a referendum.

If it passes, it could fundamentally change the political map of Michigan, and in particular, the political playing field around Lansing.

On the far northwest side of Lansing lies an interesting right angle. Two, actually. You can’t see them, because they’re imaginary. But if you happen to live, work or vote near the Capital Region International Airport in the vicinity of Waverly Road and Grand River, then you know this point is quite real.

This is the spot where Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties intersect. It’s also the junction of three Michigan congressional districts: the 4th, 7th and 8th. The place demographers call the Greater Lansing area straddles all three. Yet, not one of its three incumbents — Republicans John Moolenaar, Mike Bishop and Tim Walberg — live in or even close to Greater Lansing.

And that’s not by accident.

“That’s inherently unfair to the people of the Greater Lansing area,” says Walt Sorg with the Michigan Election Reform Alliance. “They should be represented by somebody who’s more consistent with the views of the Lansing area.”

At the same time, is a lawsuit in the works taking aim at Michigan’s gerrymandered political districts.

Michigan Democrats are going to federal court to try to undo congressional and legislative electoral districts they say are unlawfully gerrymandered to Republican advantage.

They are hoping to replicate a recent success by Wisconsin Democrats, who got legislative districts in that state struck down through a 2016 federal lawsuit. The November ruling in the Wisconsin case was significant because it was a rare instance in which a federal court struck down legislative districts on the grounds of partisan gerrymandering, rather than racial gerrymandering.

Southfield attorney Mark Brewer, who is representing the plaintiffs, said he sent registered letters Tuesday to about 60 individuals who could be witnesses in the pending lawsuit, putting them on notice not to destroy records about how the districts were created in 2011. At the time, both chambers of the Legislature, plus the Michigan Supreme Court, were under GOP control, as they remain today.

There is widespread support among progressives to take on the system of political redistricting. But realistically, it will take a lot of effort to see partisan gerrymandering ended, either through the legislature, the ballot box or in court.

Do we have it in us to make it happen?

 

 

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