… With Michigan’s next general election still more than a year and a half away, handicappers are already speculating which of the familiar faces circling one another are poised to rule the state’s political landscape after 2018. But the future of Michigan politics — and the partisan complexion of future state legislatures and congressional delegations — may depend more on the U.S. Supreme Court, whose nine members will decide in a few weeks whether to take up a voting-rights case with big implications for Michigan’s political destiny. Federal and state laws require that members of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislative bodies be elected from districts that are approximately equal in population. Each member of the current U.S. House, for instance, represents approximately 700,000 residents.
Because state populations grow, shrink and redistribute themselves over time, political boundaries must be adjusted every 10 years. The primary purpose of this process, known as reapportionment or redistricting, is to make sure that no state or region is over- or under-represented.
But in Michigan and most other states, the reapportionment process is controlled by the state’s elected leaders. When the governor and the legislative majority are from the same party, that party enjoys — and typically exploits — the opportunity to configure legislative and congressional districts that favor its own candidates at the expense of the rival party’s.
Gerrymandering — also known as packing and cracking — is the ever-more-sophisticated art of drawing political boundaries to give one party’s candidates a practically insurmountable advantage in legislative and congressional elections. The trick is to pack most of the opposing party’s voters into the smallest possible number of districts while cracking its remaining voters into multiple districts so they fall short of a
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