FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Elizabeth Battiste
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz joins board of Voters Not Politicians citizens redistricting campaign
Longtime Republican, now independent, joins non-partisan group
LANSING – Former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek, who served for 15 years as a Republican state senator, two years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and finished second in the 2002 GOP primary for governor, has joined the board of directors of Voters Not Politicians, the non-partisan, volunteer-driven campaign to end partisan gerrymandering in Michigan.
Dr. Schwarz, a physician who as a legislator often supported bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems, said it’s time to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that operates in full public view, instead of relying on political party leaders and lobbyists making decisions in private to draw district lines.
“The process Voters Not Politicians has laid out will require bipartisan cooperation in creating Michigan’s congressional and state legislative district lines,” Schwarz said. “And the discussion will be held in public, instead of behind closed doors. This would be an important step in restoring the faith of Michigan people in our democratic institutions.”
Both parties have a track record of using the redistricting process to benefit their interests, not those of Michiganders, Schwarz noted. He pointed to the current congressional situation, where voters have split nearly 50-50 in recent years, but Republicans control 9 of 14 congressional seats.
“Pundits and pollsters are predicting Democrats may have a wave this year, and put themselves in position to control redistricting under our current process. That would likely create a similarly undemocratic outcome. I tell many of my Republican friends they should embrace the chance for a fair map that represents the voters of the state, and a real battle of ideas to determine our state’s future.”
Schwarz served as Battle Creek City Commissioner from 1979 to 1985 and was elected mayor of Battle Creek from 1985 to 1987. Between 1987 and 2002, Schwarz served as president pro tempore of the Michigan Senate. In 2004, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He represented Michigan's 7th congressional district from January 2005 to January 2007 and now identifies as an Independent.
“The nonpartisan nature of Voters Not Politicians is essential,” said Schwarz. “We believe that partisan gerrymandering is wrong – no matter which party is in charge. That’s why our policy solution takes the drawing of lines out of the hands of politicians behind closed doors and gives it back to the people in an open, transparent, and inclusive process.”
Voters Not Politicians is awaiting Board of State Canvassers review of the more than 440,000 signatures delivered to the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday, December 18, surpassing the required number of 315,654 signatures needed to get on the November 2018 ballot. This is the first all-volunteer led effort of its kind in the state, entirely citizen-organized and supported.
Voters Not Politicians began with a series of 33 town halls in 33 days, garnering public input used to develop a state constitutional amendment to establish an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, making the redistricting process transparent by opening it to the public and requiring open meetings and feedback.
Under current law, Democratic or Republican politicians and lobbyists draw legislative and congressional boundaries to benefit their interests. The Voters Not Politicians proposal would prevent politicians, lobbyists and their families from being involved in redistricting and put citizens in charge.
Voters Not Politicians is a nonpartisan, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to passing a state constitutional amendment to end gerrymandering by taking politicians and lobbyists out of the redistricting process and putting Michigan citizens in charge. Learn more atwww.votersnotpoliticians.com.