League of Women Voters Michigan Discusses Redistricting

Renaissance_Unity_Brown_TopLeague of Women Voters gardenfreshADMichigan Discusses Redistricting

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 6, 2015)

“The problem,” said Michigan League of Women Voters of Michigan President Judy Karandjeff, “Is the politicians are drawing their own voting maps to manipulate elections and keep themselves and their party in power.”

Karandjeff spoke to over 50 people at a recent presentation at the Birmingham Unitarian Church. The League of Women Voters Michigan and American Association of University Women Birmingham co-hosted the event. Both organizations are working to educate the public about redistricting.

NewWay_Jazz_TuesdaysRedistricting happens every ten years after each census, and it’s the process where the political boundaries are re-drawn. The next round happens in 2020.

In Michigan the districts used to be roughly square. In the 1960s this was changed to a commission of 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Karandjeff explained that instead of working together the parties would draw their own maps. “Three times they tied and the Supreme Court made the decisions,” she said.

No one in the room seemed surprised that the parties disagreed. But it does surprise some folks to know that districts are determined by the politicians themselves and not by a system that encourages democracy.

After three decades of gridlock, legislatures took over the task themselves. Since the lisa schmidt lawmid-1990s legislators have drawn their own maps and the government at the state and national level has become increasingly one-sided, with Democrats being put into more concentrated districts so that more seats go to Republicans.

Karandjeff gave several examples of gerrymandering, which is where districts are drawn with odd-shaped borders that have clear political consequences. Often the lines mean districts have a pre-determined outcome. For example, Michigan’s 14th Congressional District snakes through Metro Detroit like a slithering “S,” with its head in Pontiac, and a body that slides along Telegraph road, through Farmington Hills, down into Southfield, then curves along 8 Mile Road over to Hamtramck and Grosse Point, and with the tail covering some voters in Detroit. This makes for a District that favors Democrats by 79%. Republicans don’t really stand a chance. And it also means that instead of running to represent their communities, POWELLad_01Democrats who live in this area must run against each other and can ultimately only get one seat, while surrounding districts have more of a chance at being Republican. Representation in the 14th District, which is now held by Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, is determined in the primary.

The same is true for the surrounding Districts. District 12 has a base that is 56% Republican and District 13 has a base that is 57% Republican.

“We’re concerned because people think their vote doesn’t count. And in some cases, their vote doesn’t count,” Karandjeff said. “The number of seats out of 14 that are competitive are 5.”

Not only does this mean predetermined outcomes for what party will win, it also means that people running in the primaries are more likely to be further away from the center of the political spectrum. In a competitive race, candidates are more likely to appeal to the general ChamberAd_02public. But in a race where the parties themselves push for candidates and where the most active voters are party-driven, it makes more sense for candidates to be further to the right or to the left.

“For 95 years the League [of Women Voters] has stood for the fairness and equality of all voters. Change the rules so that the process is fair, transparent and impartial,” Karandjeff said.

She gave examples of how redistricting is done in other states. Some have commissions made up of legislators that are balanced between the parties, some have advisory commissions, and some have independent commissions.

Changing the process for redistricting means changing the State Constitution. This can only Sahara ad with winebe done by a vote of the legislature or a vote of the people. Discussions of the topic have started, though there is no organized campaign. The League of Women Voters Michigan and American Association of University Women Birmingham are hosting several town halls on the subject in the coming weeks.

In August State Rep. Robert Wittenberg hosted a town hall in Berkley about redistricting, featuring Mark Schauer and Mark Brewer. Read more about that at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2015/08/15/townhall-explores-possibility-of-redistricting-reform/.

Look for more upcoming town halls at AAUW’s website http://birmingham-mi.aauw.net/ and LWV’s website http://www.lwvmi.org/events.html.

There are town halls scheduled for Southfield and Huntington Woods on Nov. 10, Ferndale Nov 12 and Farmington Hills Nov. 17. Learn more at http://www.lwvmi.org/events.html.



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