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Thursday, May 23, 2019

State GOP is attempting to hobble new anti-gerrymandering commission

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 11:49 AM

  • Map of the Michigan House's gerrymandered districts in southeastern Michigan.

Lame duck may be over, but the Michigan GOP is still attempting to circumvent the will of the voters.

Separate proposed budgets approved by Republican-controlled Senate and House committees slash funding for Democrat Jocelyn Benson's Secretary of State office by 25 percent. The office is charged with paying for an independent redistricting commission that voters overwhelmingly approved in November. Dems say the move is an attempt to force the Secretary of State to underfund the commission, which would hobble it before it ever gets up and running.

Michigan is one of the nation's most gerrymandered states. Democrats in the Legislature have repeatedly received about the same or more votes than Republicans since 2014, but Republicans have held onto large majorities. Emails sent among GOP politicians and lobbyists show that Republicans intended to gerrymander the state's legislative districts when it redrew the map in 2012.

The independent redistricting commission will be made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who will draw the legislative districts in a fair manner that doesn't benefit any party. Politicians, lobbyists, and other political insiders are barred from participating.

In short, the commission takes away power from politicians and gives it to the people, and that's not something that Republicans like.

In the Senate, Republicans proposed cutting Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's budget by $4.6 million, including over $2 million that was supposed to go toward elections administration.

The House is proposing similar changes, and is attempting to move the Commission's funds from the Secretary of State to the Legislature. The two chambers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will have to agree on budget, so it remains to be seen how this plays out.

In a statement, Voters Not Politicians, the nonpartisan group that proposed and collected signatures for the anti-gerrymandering ballot proposal, said it's "disappointed" by Republicans' attempts to underfund the commission.

"Voters are tired of politicians doing whatever they can to maintain their own power at the expense of the voters they are supposed to represent," the statement reads. "We will continue to hold these politicians accountable so they pass a budget that upholds the will of the voters by properly funding an impartial and transparent redistricting process and fair and secure elections."

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