Townsend Says Redistricting Must Help the People, Not Politicians

Commentary by Rep. Townsend on the importance of the legislative redistricting process.
Friday, January 28, 2011

With all the challenges facing Michigan, the legislative redistricting process is more important than ever. As the process starts again this year, we can’t afford to get it wrong. We must have a system that serves the interests of our residents, rather than the political aspirations of lawmakers.

Our current process for redistricting is fundamentally flawed because it allows lawmakers to draw their own districts, which is a clear conflict of interest that disenfranchises Michigan residents and fosters extremism while making our state and nation almost impossible to govern. The process, which occurs every ten years, needs to be transparent and nonpartisan so that our residents get legislative districts that represent our communities and that serve their needs. I plan to introduce legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives that would put legislative redistricting under the control of an appointed group of nonpartisan retired judges who would follow a clear set of objective criteria for redrawing legislative districts. This bill, which is patterned after successful reforms enacted in other states, would preserve residents’ voting rights and create many more competitive districts where dialogue and bipartisan compromise would once again become possible.

More than anything else, residents I’ve spoken with want their lawmakers to drop the shrill rhetoric and embrace pragmatic problem-solving focused on jobs and the economy. We can jumpstart that process by getting legislators out of the business of choosing their own districts. Redistricting will go a long way toward charting our course the next decade and we need to get it right so we have the state and government our residents deserve.