Politics Corner

Drawing the line

A Michigan group’s attempt to end gerrymandering in the state has led to a proposal to put citizens in charge of redistricting.

Gerrymandering is defined as the manipulation of the boundaries of election districts to give one political party a majority in many districts, according to dictionary.com.

If approved through the upcoming vote, Proposal 2 would change the way that redistricting is done in Michigan, shifting power and responsibility from politicians to a randomly selected group of Michigan citizens. The proposal seeks to create a commission of 13 registered voters: four Democrats, four Republicans and five who are not affiliated with either party.

Every 10 years, a commission will redistrict for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress. The goal of this is to create a more equal balance amongst districts, which are traditionally chosen by the majority political party.

Ferris business administration senior Margo Brown said she believes the proposal will make districts more fair and equally balanced, while also giving voters more power.

“I think people are going to care about this because it’s going to affect the individual voter. I think this will let more people have a say in what’s going to happen in our elections instead of a certain political party having that say,” Brown said.

Voters Not Politicians (VNP), the group that made the major push to get Proposal 2 on the ballot, said the proposal is based on what some states, such as California and Arizona, are already doing.

VNP Executive Director Katie Fahey said that looking at states with similar systems, as well as getting feedback from Michigan residents, helped shape the proposal.

The proposal has several stipulations for those serving on the redistricting commission. Parents, children and spouses of partisan elected officials, as well as anyone who has held a partisan office or served as an employee of a partisan-elected official, or as a lobbyist for the previous six years, are barred from serving. These rules are aimed at keeping the process as non-partisan as possible.

“As long as the 13 selected individuals are well-informed and get the proper information needed, it seems like it should be fair and they should be able to come to some agreement that is fair for both parties,” Ferris psychology senior and College Democrats President Dani Jandura said.

As for choosing commission members, the Michigan Secretary of State will mail applications to at least 10,000 randomly selected registered voters. In addition, any registered Michigan voter can apply to serve on the commission. The applications then go through several stages of random selections before being narrowed down to the final 13 applicants.

Once chosen, the commission must hold at least 10 public hearings throughout the state to get citizen input before a plan is drafted. After a plan is drafted, at least five more public hearings must be held to listen to comments about the plan.

A majority must approve the final plan, with at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two non-partisan commission members voting in favor. If passed, the proposal is expected by many to create a more even distribution of Republican and Democratic voters throughout the districts.

Currently, the majority political party is in charge of redistricting, which opponents argue leads to unfair advantages for that party and does not give many voters proper representation.