Gerrymander Gazette: Midwest – 2, Gerrymandering – 0
Last week was a rough one for gerrymandering in the Midwest. In Missouri and Michigan, separate initiatives to reform the drawing of legislative districts overcame obstacles to get on the November ballot. Also, a new crew of math-loving advocates takes up the fight for fair representation. Let’s dive in.
Close but No Cigar for Michigan Special Interests
Despite piles of oil-soaked cash poured into a legal effort to deny Michiganders the opportunity to vote on redistricting reform, a bipartisan majority of the Michigan Supreme Court voted to place Proposal 2 on the November ballot. Proposal 2 is a ballot initiative backed by Voters Not Politicians that would create an independent citizen redistricting commission to draw Michigan’s congressional and state legislative districts.
Common Cause joined former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) on an amicus brief in support of placing the initiative on the ballot. Schwarzenegger also took time out of his busy schedule to fully governate the Michigan GOP for its dishonest portrayal of California’s redistricting reform. The Campaign Legal Center and the ACLU of Michigan also submitted briefs backing Voters Not Politicians. More than 425,000 Michigan residents signed a petition to place Proposal 2 on the ballot and now it appears that voters will have the opportunity on November 6 to implement fair and transparent redistricting in the state.
A slew of emails written by Michigan legislators and their staffs during the last redistricting cycle became public during litigation and provided another boost to reform efforts. The League of Women Voters of Michigan sued in federal court to argue that Michigan’s legislative districts are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The content of the emails demonstrates the extent to which partisanship and pettiness were the primary motivations in the drawing of congressional and state legislative maps legislators drew in the last redistricting cycle. One legislative staffer stated that he sought to cram “Dem garbage” into just a few congressional districts. Another expressed glee about the shape of a district, stating: “it’s giving the finger to (Democratic U.S. Rep.) sandy levin. I love it.”
Clean Missouri Gets on the Ballot
Missouri’s secretary of state announced that the Clean Missouri ballot initiative campaign to require partisan fairness in the drawing of state legislative districts gathered enough signatures to put the question before voters this November. Clean Missouri’s initiative will be listed as Amendment 1 on Missouri’s November 6 general election ballot and would create a nonpartisan state demographer position for redistricting. The demographer would be tasked with drawing state legislative districts and be required to maximize partisan fairness so a map does not give any political party an unfair advantage. The proposal also includes campaign finance, ethics, and transparency reforms.
Math-Lovers Go to Summer School to Fight Gerrymandering
Fifty-two students gathered in Boston to participate in a six-week Voting Rights Data Institute training to apply a variety of mathematical approaches to solving the problem of gerrymandering. The Institute is a program of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG). Research tasks ranged from examining state redistricting laws, assessing the ramifications of a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 census, and developing an app that allows users to produce their own redistricting maps. On behalf of an advocacy community filled with arithmophobic lawyers, thank you for joining the cause.
P.S. The next round of briefs are due tomorrow in Common Cause v. Rucho and League Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho, the consolidated partisan gerrymandering case that is likely to head to the U.S Supreme Court soon. Stay tuned…