Buoyed by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, advocates of overhauling how Michigan draws legislative and congressional seats plan to raise public awareness about redistricting in preparation for a potential 2016 ballot initiative. The ruling, issued in the last week, upheld the authority of states to strip lawmakers’ authority to set congressional district maps once a decade. Arizona voters had created an independent commission in 2000 to take the politically charged job out of the hands of the Legislature. The League of Women Voters and Common Cause, groups that advocate for fairer maps, are researching other states’ redistricting systems and conducting polling before ramping up educational efforts with help from local civic groups.
“That’s a big undertaking. The public doesn’t know much about it. They don’t know what you’re talking about when you say redistricting. They don’t see the significance of it in their daily lives,” said Sue Smith, a vice president for the League of Women Voters of Michigan.
She said gerrymandering, the drawing of district lines to benefit a political party, is a problem no matter which side is in power because Michigan ends up with representation not reflecting its population. If done well, gerrymandering can protect incumbents and maximize the number of districts in which one party has a majority of voters.