LANSING — State Representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) held a town hall meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the need for redistricting reform. Wittenberg is backing a plan to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would be charged with drawing political boundaries – a task currently left to political officials who create political districts to give their own party an advantage in elections. Participating in the town hall were former Michigan congressman Mark Schauer, who now leads a national effort to reform redistricting, and election law expert Mark Brewer of Goodman Acker P.C. of Southfield.
“In a healthy democracy, elections should be contests of ideas. Unfortunately, gerrymandered districts have turned many elections into foregone conclusions, and given voters no real choice at the ballot box,” Wittenberg said. “By turning over the task of redrawing political lines to a nonpartisan commission, we can take the politics out of redistricting and give voters more say in the voting booth.”
Under a proposal sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), the nonpartisan redistricting commission would be made up of regular citizens – not elected politicians – who would be tasked with drawing state and federal political boundaries in a way that is constitutional, compliant with the Voting Rights Act, contiguous, geographically relevant, compact, nested and not drawn to protect incumbents.
“We hear too often that voters have lost faith in elections and in their government,” Schauer said. “Gerrymandering is one of the major reasons people have lost their faith in our political system. By making redistricting fair again, we can restore people’s trust in our political system and assure them that their vote will count as much as anyone else’s.”
The redistricting plan Wittenberg backs was unveiled after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that such commissions are constitutionally valid. There is broad support for redistricting reform in Michigan – a 2012 survey found that 71 percent of Michiganders would support a change, indicating that the proposal appeals to people across the Republican-Democrat divide.
“Fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy. When politicians play games with political lines in order to give themselves an advantage on Election Day, our entire democracy is compromised,” Brewer said. “Voters need to have trust in our political system, which is why Michigan needs redistricting reform.”
Wittenberg is hopeful the proposals will gain traction once the Legislature resumes its regular schedule in the fall.
“Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent, everyone wants to know that their vote counts,” Wittenberg said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who understand the importance of fair elections, and I’ll keep my constituents informed as these bills make their way through the Legislature.”