Edith Munro of the Times Union writes about redistricting in Iowa. “For most Americans, redistricting is a study in bare knuckles partisanship as political parties battle for the advantage that comes from reorganizing congressional and state legislative districts. Not in Iowa.”
Unfortunately for us, we don’t live in Iowa. So, why is redistricting so important, and why does no one know about it?
At the beginning of each decade, the Census Bureau collects information on population across the country. Based on the population in the State of Michigan, it is decided how many congressional districts Michigan will have.
We currently have 14 districts, with a possible 15th district coming if our population continues to increase. Each district is represented by a member of the House of Representatives in the federal government.
When you vote for a candidate who is running to be a member of the House of Representatives in the general elections, it counts. The electoral college, or voting for a candidate of the political party you normally don’t vote for doesn’t alter your vote, but it is altered by the way that congressional districts are drawn.
Gerrymandering (partisan gerrymandering, in particular) is when congressional districts are drawn to get more officials of a particular political party elected into the House of Representatives.
In Michigan, the political party (Democratic or Republican) that controls Michigan’s legislature is responsible for drawing the districts.
According to the Supreme Court case of Shaw v. Reno, drawing districts based on racial makeup is illegal under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. That’s it. Drawing based on income, or political party is legal.
Therefore, Michigan’s 14th congressional district looks like a snake, and the 11th is mostly southwest of Pontiac, but has a sliver that runs around the city and then covers the south part of Rochester Hills.
Since the Republican Party controls Michigan’s legislature, they get to draw the districts. They use high-tech computer programs to give them the biggest advantages in getting the most Republican candidates, and incumbents, elected into the House of Representatives.
If you’re a Republican, this sounds great! But, if Michigan decides to elect a majority of Democratic candidates to office, they will get to choose how the districts are drawn.
No matter what political party chooses how to draw districts, they will do it to further their advantage in Congress. Instead of focusing on policy, workers for the political parties have to focus on this political game that doesn’t help the American people in any way.
It would benefit voters of all political parties if we changed the way districts were drawn.
Gill v. Whitford was just heard by the Supreme Court, who will decide whether partisan gerrymandering (redistricting to benefit one political party) is legal.
Partisan redistricting should be illegal. Voters should be electing officials who truly represent the people, whether they choose Republican or Democratic.
Some states have redistricting commissions, that are usually made up of Republican and Democratic officials, who agree on how districts should be drawn.
Some people have called for commissions that are made up of people who aren’t affiliated with a political party, and would be hired to draw districts in the most fair way for both political parties.
No matter what the solution, gerrymandering needs to come to an end so we can stop playing politics, and debate more issues that affect Americans.