Drive against ‘gerrymandering’ gathers steam

A volunteer collects signatures for the Voters Not Politicians drive at Taste of Clarkston. Photo by Phil Custodio

Clarkston News Editor
Volunteers have been hitting the streets lately to collect signatures against “gerrymandering.”
“We’re about halfway there – it’s impressive,” said Henry Woloson of Independence Township, who is supporting the Voters Not Politicians grass roots effort.
They’re looking to collect about 315,000 signatures to place the issue on the November 2018 ballot, to amend the state Constitution. The proposal would establish a 13-member independent citizens’ commission to redraw congressional and state legislative district boundaries following each census. Commissioners would be Michigan registered voters and include four Republicans, four Democrats, and five independent.
“This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue,” Woloson said. “Whichever party is in power with a majority, tries to stack the deck in their favor. Then we have lawsuits contesting the lines where only the lawyers win – this is a much better solution than having the courts decide each time.”
Under current state law, the party in power draws district boundaries after the census. When they’re drawn to concentrate opponent’s supporters in a handful of districts, with their own supporters spread out among the rest, the majority party might dependably win three-quarters of the seats in future elections, even if the opposition wins more votes statewide.
“Gerrymandering” is named after the salamander-like, contorted shapes created in this process. Some parts of Michigan districts are a single street wide, or have tendrils wrapping around or into other districts, rather than simply grouping neighboring communities.
“With the current system, the deck is stacked – districts resemble gerrymanders,” Woloson said. “It’s wrong.”
Independent voter commissions are used in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington, he said.
“Independents contribute a larger group than Democrats or Republicans. Where is our representation,” asked Woloson.
With gerrymandered districts, the vote is often decided in the primary, he said.
“Why have general election if it’s a done deal? This would make sure elections mean something,” he said. “The goal is to truly make sure every vote counts.”
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