Suppose you are applying for the position of CEO at a company. As part of the interview process, you must meet with ten of the company's shareholders for a Q&A session. Prior to the interview, you are given a list of every shareholder along with who their preferred applicant is for the position. You are then told you can select seven of the ten shareholders who will be present for your interview. Naturally, you pick seven shareholders who favor you and you get the job. The seven you selected, however, were out of a pool of 100 shareholders, only 40 of which thought you were the best candidate for the position. This means that despite only 40% of the company favoring you, you still got the job. In effect, this is what gerrymandering does to elections.
Gerrymandering is the practice of politicians deliberately redrawing electoral district maps in such a way as to give their political party an unfair advantage. Essentially, this process allows political parties to attain a greater number of seats within an elected body than the actual percentage of the vote they received. Through this process, democracy is eroded and politicians are able to choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians.
Per the U.S Constitution, every 10 years (in conjunction with the U.S Census), states redraw their electoral districts to account for shifts in the population. This is an important and necessary function of our democracy as it ensures that districts losing population do not receive a disproportionate representation in Congress (at state and national levels) as well as assuring that districts gaining population are not underrepresented in those same bodies. However, due to the fact that state legislators, the very individuals who are up for reelection, are in charge of redrawing these districts, inevitably there is a conflict of interests. Legislators specifically redraw district lines in a way that maximizes the number of districts dominated by voters belonging to their party. Often times, this is done in areas where the total number of voters belonging to the opposition party is greater. This process then allows legislators to stay in office, even in areas where they are no longer popularly elected.
In January of 2017, State Representatives Jon Hoadley and Jeremy Moss put forth legislation aimed at fixing this issue. House Joint Resolution B, introduced by Rep. Hoadley, would amend the Michigan constitution to create an independent citizens redistricting commission. This commission would be tasked with the redrawing of congressional and electoral districts every 10 years, putting the power back in the hands of the voter. House Bill 4122, introduced by Rep. Moss, contains the process and provisions for forming this commission. At the time of writing of this piece, the House has still refused to hold hearings to consider either of these measures. If you would like hearings on these pieces of legislation to be held (and more importantly, your voice as a voter to be heard), contact your representative at: 517.373.6339. You can also contact the speaker of the house (the member in charge of setting the agenda for hearings) directly, at: 517-373-1778. For more information on the issue, as well as how you can get involved with a grassroots ballot initiative, go to votersnotpoliticians.com.