WSW: Ballot Proposal Takes Aim At "Heavily Gerrymandered State"

Sep 18, 2017

Former Congressman Joe Schwarz signs the petition to put the redistricting reform amendment on the 2018 ballot, at a Voters Not Politicians town hall meeting in Marshall in August.
Credit Robert Weir / Voters Not Politicians

Former Congressman and state lawmaker Joe Schwarz says gerrymandering, term limits and money in politics are the biggest problems with state government. He’s backing a ballot drive designed to address gerrymandering. 

  

Correction: In the interview Joe Schwarz says Voters Not Politicians is using paid petition circulators to gather signatures, and try to get the issue on the ballot. Schwarz says that was an error, and the signatures are being collected by volunteers. 

Schwarz will lead a town hall meeting on Thursday in Battle Creek being sponsored the group Voters Not Politicians. The former Republican lawmaker, who now identifies himself as an independent, says Michigan is "a very heavily gerrymandered state" where boundaries for Congressional and state Legislative districts are determined by partisan advantage, not as they should be, for communities of interest.

Michigan lawmakers draw the new boundaries every 10 years based on new census figures. Schwarz was in the Legislature for the reapportionment process in 1990 and 2000. After the 2000 Census, Republicans controlled the governor’s office along with both houses of the Legislature. Schwarz says he was aware that the process was unfair to Democrats, but not as “conscientious about it as I should have been.” Schwarz says “the way we did it then, and the way we still do it is really not fair and in no way represents common communities of interest.”

Voters Not Politicians proposes a 13 member commission to draw the boundaries. Schwarz says the ground rules will make it hard for partisan forces to “game the system.” Schwarz says election results for statewide races such as for President and governor, show that Michigan is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, but Republicans hold an advantage in the state’s Congressional delegation, state Senate and state House. Schwarz says districts drawn fairly would create a greater balance. He says that for instance, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek used to be in same Congressional Since then, Battle Creek has been drawn in to three different districts, currently it’s represented by Grand Rapids Republican Justin Amash. Schwarz says having Battle Creek and Kalamazoo in the same district would reflect communities of interest, and would be better for citizens.

Schwarz says he thinks the issue will be on the ballot next year. But he says Voters Not Politicians will need money to let people know that the proposal would be good for the state of Michigan. Schwarz says that money will have to come from many people willing to give small contributions.