Political strategist Karl Rove once said, “when you draw the lines, you make the rules.”
Federal law in the United States has 3 rules when it comes to redistricting.
- District maps must be drawn every 10 years when new census data is available to reflect shifts in population across different states.
- Districts must be drawn to reflect equal population.
- Districts must adhere to the Voting Rights Act that protects from racial discrimination in voting.
Other than those three rules, states are allowed to draw election maps however they want.
Michigan is one of 37 states that gives all of this power to the state legislature. In order for final maps to pass, a simple majority of each chamber of the state legislature must vote yes. The governor has the power to veto the redistricting plan. However, when 1 party controls each of these areas, they effectively have full control over the redistricting process with zero input from other parties.
Giving politicians the power to draw the election maps they run in is putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.
When the legislature draws the election maps, they are drawing what districts voters must vote in. This allows them to choose their voters, instead of voters choosing them. This allows politicians to manipulate elections to give them and their party an advantage for the next decade of elections. And, if one party is still in power 10 years later, they get to manipulate the next set of elections for the next decade again.
The evolution and use of advanced computer software and big data has contributed to the extreme partisan gerrymandering that we see in states like Michigan. Money in politics has also lead to the severe manipulation of voting maps. Lobbyists and special interests are able to fund highly complex and corrupt redistricting plans to keep politicians they control in power. This influences politicians to follow the will of who is paying them instead of the will of the people.
Politicians are very creative in how they manipulate election maps.
Cracking: If a party feels threatened by high densities of voters that fall into certain demographics or political ideologies, they crack them apart to spread out their voting power. In the example below, the Red party has cracked the Blue voters across 6 districts just enough that they only have a majority in 1 district while securing 5 districts for themselves, even though the votes are equal.
Packing: Politicians can also pack voters from the other party into a few districts. While this gives the other party a couple districts, it keeps the other districts safe because the opposing party’s voters have been packed so tightly into a few districts. In the example below, the Blue party has packed red voters into 1 district, allowing them to sweep the other 6 districts.
Kidnapping: Michigan representatives must live in the district they represent. District lines can be drawn so precisely that they can remove an incumbent politician from their home district. Kidnapping is a strategy when an incumbent with a solid home-base is targeted and the lines are drawn to move them to a neighboring district, separating them from that home-base of support. This gives the majority party the power to silence their influence in the next election.
Hijacking: Hijacking occurs when a political candidate is packed into a district with an established leader of the same party. This forces the two to run against each other in the primary election and removes them from competing with the other party in neighboring districts.
Our solution prevents incumbents or political opponents to be targeted when district maps are drawn.
It’s time to take the power of redistricting away from politicians and put that power in the hands of Michigan voters.
If we continue to allow politicians the power to control the redistricting process, we risk letting one of the two parties manipulate our election maps in 2020 when the next census is conducted. Both parties are preparing to continue the tradition of partisan gerrymandering: the Republicans are preparing with project REDMAP 2020 and the Democrats are preparing with project ADVANTAGE 2020.
Politicians don’t want us to take away their control to draw election maps because it helps them stay in power. If gerrymandering in Michigan continues, only one group of people benefit from the corrupt and manipulated system - the members of the State legislature and their armies of lobbyists.