Michigan politicians look to redraw district lines

MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The issue of drawing district lines in Michigan is being talked about again, and lawmakers are turning to citizens for help. The last three sessions legislation to change the redistricting process has been introduced, but it never received a hearing. Some political experts say now could be the best time for change, either by legislative means or by grassroots movements.

The gerrymandering of district maps results in oddly shaped districts winding around cities and townships that usually benefit the party in power. In Michigan, those boundaries tend to favor Republicans. Democratic State Representative John Hoadley wants to create a group of nonpartisan citizens to help reform the process.

With citizens creating the framework Rep. Hoadley says, “You’d have to force agreement between Democrats, independents, and Republicans and ultimately you have to draw lines that better reflect the communities in which we’re supposed to serve.”

WMU Political Science Chair, John Clark, says now is the time to think about redistricting changes because we’re in-between censuses. He says when citizens get involved in redistricting there are often results.

“In a number of states where there have been changes to the redistricting process it’s come from some sort of grassroots effort,” Clark said.

A grassroots effort is now gaining momentum here in Michigan, it’s called “Voters Not Politicians”. The group wants to create a bipartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission to build a ballot proposal.

Spokesperson Katie Fahey said, “We make sure we’re getting district boundary lines that are representative of what people want, of what people are actually voting for.”

“Voters Not Politicians” needs more than 315,000 valid signatures to put the measure up for a vote. Townhall meetings are being held across the state to gather input on that policy.

“If there’s a better idea out there, if we’re going to get a more fair system by including more people, why wouldn’t we do that?” Fahey said.

Rep. Hoadley says he welcomes the formation of this grassroots movement. If legislation doesn’t look promising, he hopes the movement takes hold.

“We think there’s really an opportunity here where people are hungry for change and we’re hoping that we’re going to see thousands of people say they want to get involved too,” he said.

“Voters Not Politicians” is working on a location for a townhall meeting in the Kalamazoo area.

To learn more about Rep. Hoadley’s plan for a citizens nonpartisan redistricting commission click here.

To learn about “Voters Not Politicians” movement and townhall meetings click here.

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