Citizens recruited to draw new voting districts

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At the South Lansing Library on Tuesday, Jan. 28, Voters Not Politicians held a workshop to educate the public on the Citizens Redistricting Commission, which will draw the new district lines in Michigan.

Voters Not Politicians is the nonprofit organization that helped get the anti-gerrymandering Proposal 2 on the 2018 ballot. The proposal passed, giving the power to draw district lines to the people.

Mark Johnson, a volunteer for Voters Not Politicians, said, “Instead of having the Legislature draw lines for themselves, we’re going to have a commission of 13 people from across the state do that for us, and do it in a way that’s open, transparent, and will reflect what the voters want.” 

According to Johnson, the organization is recruiting applicants for the Commission.

The commission will consist of four Republicans, four Democrats, and five people not affiliated with either party. More than 10,000 people have already applied, and Regional Director David Hopkinson predicts that number to at least double. Hopkinson said VNP’s goal is for the commission to demographically and geographically represent the state. 

“We’re going to have to constantly fight for this,” Hopkinson said. “People who are opposed to what we got passed are trying to change it.”

Among those who attended the library workshop was Paula Simon, a member of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. 

“Where we are right now, as far as our political process, there’s a lot of chaos,” Simon said. “It seems like politicians have forgotten the slogan that our forefathers said: ‘for the people, by the people.’”

Simon filled out an application at the workshop. She said, “I just want to be a part of something for my grandbabies. I want them to understand that if you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t get to speak.”

Simon was the first female to be president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s Lansing chapter. She works to educate people on politics and the importance of voting. “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain,” Simon said.

In 2008, California passed a proposal similar to Michigan’s. Hopkinson said that 10 years ago, California’s economy was the worst in the nation. Now, its economy is doing great. According to Hopkinson, redistricting was a part of what fixed that.

Johnson said that in the fall of 2016, Voters Not Politicians was nothing. The organization plans to continue its efforts in getting rid of gerry-mandering in other states, such as Ohio. “You haven’t heard the last of us,” Johnson said.