Michigan takes another step toward addressing gerrymandering

It looks as though we’ve just taken another big step toward addressing gerrymandering in the state of Michigan today, as U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff thew out the case by the Michigan Republican Party to block the nonpartisan redistricting ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly by Michigan voters.

Here, by way of background, is an excerpt from something I posted here this past April, when the federal court found Michigan’s gerrymandering unconstitutional.

This is Michigan’s 12th congressional district, where I live. It didn’t always look like this. There was a time, prior to the Republican redistricting of 2001-2002, when the borders of the 12th district pretty much formed a square. But that changed in the wake of the 2000 census, when the Republican majority in Lansing took the opportunity to redraw the boundaries not just of the 12th district, but of pretty much all of Michigan’s districts, looking at statewide voting patterns, and carving the state up to ensure a conservative majority in perpetuity. And that’s how we came to find ourselves living in this painfully contorted district that twists and lurches its way across southeast Michigan in hopes of capturing every single Democratic voter who might otherwise have made the surrounding districts more competitive for Republican incumbents.

As Karl Rove once said, “when you draw the lines, you make the rules.”

Gerrymandering, of course, wasn’t new in the early 2000s, but the Republicans took it to levels that no one had dared to attempt in the past. As The Nation reported at the time, “(A)ssuming support for the two major parties remains roughly constant, and assuming the Supreme Court does not step into the fray too aggressively, the 2001 redistricting in newly GOP-controlled Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, coupled with the ongoing power grab in Texas, Colorado and possibly Ohio, could give the Republicans up to twenty additional House seats in the next election. The cumulative impact of this change will make it far harder for the Democrats to secure a Congressional majority over the course of the next several election cycles.” And that’s exactly what happened. Without really attracting any new Republican voters, and in spite of demographic trends that favored the Democrats, the Republican Party picked up dozens of congressional seats, secured federal power, and used that power to slash taxes for the wealthy and strengthen the power of corporations. [The Republicans also fought to keep Democrats from voting, employing all kinds of voter suppression schemes, but we’ll talk about that side of the coin at another time.]

So, in this way, the Republicans held onto power in states where they saw their popular support dwindling. They carved up congressional districts, they closed polling places in areas that leaned Democratic, and they continued to do the bidding of wealthy industrialists, like the Koch brothers, who kept filling their coffers. But, eventually, people realized that they didn’t have to just accept this, as they had it within their power to use their state-wide popular vote majorities to pass ballot measures. And, in 2016, 61% of Michigan voters supported Proposal 2 — “Voters not Politicians” — to amend Michigan’s constitution in order to establish a 13-member independent redistricting commission.

While we’re still waiting to see how the “Voters not Politicians” legislation plays out (we’re hopeful that it will be transparent, fair and impartial, but who knows what it will look like in practice), Michigan’s current electoral maps are also being challenged in the courts, where League of Women Voters of Michigan has filed suit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson…

[Background on Michigan’s gerrymandering problem can be found here.]

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  1. Bernie Sanders by proxy
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Bernie posted this five days ago:

    The Supreme Court just allowed Michigan to continue gerrymandering districts to benefit Republicans.

    Our job: Fight back. Expand voter turnout. Make state legislatures and courts end partisan gerrymandering. Overturn Citizens United. Create a vibrant democracy.

  2. dogmatic dolt
    Posted November 26, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Aloha, The Democratic Party currently controls the House of Representatives. They should ammend , The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 and double or triple the size of the House. It will wipe out Republican control for ever.
    You say the Senate won’t pass it. The Senate will not remove Trump either. So what. It will expose the whole two party duopoly for what it is–monopoly on power. We would have a multi-party democracy without this restriction on popular sovereignty. A restriction that runs contrary to our original constitution. All it takes is a simple majority to make this happen. Consequences would be a god-send for democracy and progress.
    Like passage of the ERA it would be a total game changer.

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