Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
As I have written previously, partisan gerrymandering—the process by which one party draws legislative district boundaries to benefit its own candidates—can no longer be denied in Michigan. As the numbers establish, the party that controls the Michigan Legislature during the redistricting process can effectively guarantee that it retains control of a majority of the seats in the Legislature (or in Michigan’s congressional delegation) going forward—even if it does not win a majority of the votes statewide.
Partisan gerrymandering is one of the greatest threats to our system of representative democracy. But Jocelyn Benson's guest column in the Detroit Free Press only tells part of the story:
1. Benson states, "On Monday, the Court emphatically endorsed the ability of voters to create an independent commission to draw a state’s legislative and congressional districts."
Not exactly. The Supreme Court only addressed the drawing of congressional districts. The decision in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission had absolutely nothing to do with the drawing of state legislative districts.
2. Benson next states that "[v]oters in states like Arizona and California have led the way."
Actually, Michigan led the way in this area in the early 1960s. Michigan was one of the very first states to adopt a constitutionally mandated bipartisan redistricting commission.
3. Lastly, Benson observes that "[t]here’s no reason we can’t follow suit in Michigan, amend our state constitution and become a national model for fair and impartial redistricting."
We already did. Michigan was a national model for fair and independent redistricting when the 1961-1962 Constitutional Convention delegates agreed to ask the voters to establish a bipartisan apportionment commission. Indeed, the voters did adopt such a commission, which unsuccessfully attempted several times to apportion and redistrict the Legislature. It never really worked as intended, continuously deadlocked along party lines, and was eventually struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court.
In Michigan, we need to take action on congressional and legislative districting reform. The time is now. But we also need to acknowledge what went wrong the first time around. By ignoring the fact that Michigan already had a bipartisan redistricting commission, we doom ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past. Let’s get this done right!