Voters should get to weigh in on gerrymandering
Gerrymandering is defined as manipulating political boundaries to favor one party or class.
Who would have thought such underhandedness has found its way into the political scene?
However, a group opposed to gerrymandering, Voters Not Politicians, submitted more than 420,000 signatures Monday for a ballot drive to allow an independent commission to draw Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts.
If at least 315,654 signatures for the ballot drive are deemed valid, the constitutional amendment would be added to the November 2018 statewide ballot, assuming there’s no lawsuit to stop it.
The purpose of the ballot drive is to make the current system less partisan. In as Associated Press article, Voters Not Politicians President and Treasurer Katie Fahey was quoted as saying people “lock themselves behind closed doors” to draw lines for their own favor instead of considering citizens’ interests.
The commission would consist of four Democrats, four Republicans and five members with no affiliation with either major party, drawn at random by the secretary of state. This would include members of the general public who apply and applicants who respond to a mailing to 10,000 voters.
The Michigan Republican Party, however, issued a statement regarding the effort, suggesting Voters Not Politicians would take the process out of elected representatives’ hands and give that process to what it called a “panel of bureaucrats who will in no way be accountable to Michigan voters.”
Gerrymandering has been around for quite some time. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine that quoted H.L. Mencken’s “The American Language,” the term entered Webster’s Dictionary in 1864.
That same AP story stated that gerrymandering has led to seats that are drawn to guarantee as many comfortable districts as possible for the party in power. The majority party pads its advantage by translating its votes into more victories.
After the 2010 and 2000 population counts, the majority party was the GOP.
However, it’s really a matter of whoever’s in power exercising that power to their advantage — something that’s not limited to gerrymandering but to humanity in general. Truth be told, Democrats are guilty of the partisan maneuver as well.
Although it’s possible that Voters Not Politicians is, as the Michigan Republican Party said, a “Democrat front group,” we believe the ballot initiative is a step in the right direction.
It makes sense, but even if it didn’t, the voters have the right to approve it or turn it down.
That would be democracy in action.