Friday, July 27, 2007

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment: An Issue We Can’t Afford To Ignore

Representatives are elected to act in the interests of their constituents. This is a basic concept of representative democracy – you’ll find it in almost any middle school or high school social studies text book. Yet, we know that in the real world, elected officials often act in the interest of themselves, and even more often, in the interest of their political party. If our elected officials aren’t accurately representing their constituents, why are they continually elected? One part of the answer is gerrymandering.

When districts are gerrymandered, district lines are drawn to most strengthen the vote of a particular political party. For example, although more Michigan voters usually vote for Democrats than Republicans, Republicans often win a majority of seats. Some say this is due to partisan gerrymandering.

Recently, Senator Glenn Anderson, 6th District Democrat in the Michigan Senate, introduced Joint Senate Resolution D. This constitutional amendment would change the way Michigan district lines are drawn. As you probably know, our current system gives the majority party the power to draw district lines. Gerrymandered district lines break up communities that share concerns and issues, in many cases decreasing the impact of like voters, and make elections less competitive.

The new proposal would create an independent redistricting commission of nine members: four Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent elected by the other eight. This commission would draw district lines for Michigan elections. This legislation intends to de-politicize the redistricting process, drawing of district lines with regard to the communities, rather than the advantage of either political party.

On his website, Anderson says the current system allows politicians to choose their voters instead of voters electing their representatives. “Reforming the process will strengthen the hand of voters and force politicians to be more responsive to those they represent, regardless which party they identify themselves with,” said Anderson.

I strongly support this legislation and hope to increase awareness of this issue among Michigan voters. Unfortunately, studies show that most people don’t understand political redistricting and don't really care about it. A 2006 study from the Pew Research Center cites that 47% of people don’t even know how redistricting is done in their state. When asked if they were satisfied in with the process, 70% of people had no opinion.

Certainly, redistricting is an issue that is hard to get excited about for most people. It’s much easier to be angry about the war, get upset about gas prices, or frustrated by our outrageous health care system. Redistricting isn’t glamorous, but it’s the basis from which we can get things done. Without a fair process, you can shake your fist at the sky all you want on your pet issues: if the way we elect our representatives is corrupt, they will have no reason to listen to what we want.

Find out more about the Pew Study here, or read the text of the redistricting amendment proposed by Senator Anderson here.

Thanks for listening. As a new member of the ICDP, this is my first post to the dispatch. Hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn’t, write down your negative comments and toss them in the nearest rubbish bin ;) Give me a little time to get my bearings and then critique away.

1 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

Welcome! Your first post is well-researched and well-thought-out.

If the Legislature won't act on redistricting reform - and let's be honest, we shouldn't hold our breath - We the People need to, through the initiative process.

12:08 AM  

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