What is Redistricting?
Every 10 years states are required to draw new state legislative and congressional voting district lines to adjust for population changes. In Michigan, the state legislature is responsible for drawing these state legislative and congressional voting district lines.
Redistricting is intended to ensure that every person’s vote counts equally. But, in Michigan and in many other states around the country, that is not how things work. Instead of drawing fair district lines, politicians draw the lines to their own partisan advantage. They choose their voters, instead of the voters choosing their representatives. This is not democracy. This is gerrymandering.
- Every 10 years, the Michigan Legislature must draw lines for congressional and legislative districts based on the new census. Unfortunately, they use this opportunity to draw districts to protect themselves.
- Because representatives in Lansing draw the lines, politicians are free to rig districts to favor partisan interests, which makes real competition in elections rare. Many elections are decided during Democratic or Republican primaries, and not during the general election, because of gerrymandering. Of the 148 seats in the state legislature, about four-fifths of those were essentially decided in the party primaries and not by voters in the general election.
WHY IS REDISTRICTING IMPORTANT?
The Impact of Redistricting
Voters deserve an accountable and transparent government. That starts with ensuring a fair redistricting process that determines the makeup of our 148 legislative seats. A 2012 survey of Michigan voters found that 71% want to see the redistricting process changed.
- Under the current redistricting process, politicians are not accountable to their constituents. Because of how they drew the district lines, they do not have to fear any serious opposition in the general election. So they vote according to instructions from their parties or special interests that supported their campaigns. Constituents do not have a meaningful voice. And when redistricting comes around, these “safe” legislators take care of themselves and their party rather than the people of Michigan.
- Our present system gives the legislature virtually unlimited discretion in how they draw district lines. There are few Federal or State rules to stop them from using redistricting as their own political protection plan.
- In 2012, the Republicans won 9 of Michigan’s 14 congressional seats, even though they won only 46% of Michigan’s total vote for US Congress that year. The Democrats won only 5 of the 14 congressional seats even though they won 51% of Michigan’s total congressional vote.
- There were similar results in the Michigan Senate where the Republicans won 55% of the total vote for the state senate, but garnered 68% of the senate seats and in the Michigan House where Republicans won 46% of the total vote for the state house, but garnered 54% of the house seats.
- While the Republicans drew the lines to suit themselves in Michigan, in other states, such as Illinois, where the Democrats were in control, they drew the lines to favor their party and candidates.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY - DON'T LET POLITICIANS MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM
It Doesn't Have to be this Way
Many states use a different system for drawing the maps. Seven states use a commission that is independent of their state legislatures. In California and Arizona, for example, citizens, not elected officials, draw the maps. In states like these where someone other than elected officials drew the lines the number of votes received statewide reflected the number of seats awarded.
In Michigan, we are having an open dialogue about what we should do to reform the rules so that the process of drawing districts is impartial, fair and transparent, and our government is of, by, and for the people, not the politicians.
Election Day is when we get to have our say, and we need to reform the rules so that every vote counts.
WHO WE ARE
The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative
The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative was founded in 2011 to find ways to improve transparency and fairness in our redistricting process. In 2015 and 2016, the many groups in the collaborative held over 50 educational meetings with voters across the state. The collaborative is made up of concerned citizens and groups, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Michigan, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association. Because redistricting affects all of us, new partners are joining in our mission every day to make Michigan’s redistricting process more accountable to voters.