We Must Make Redistricting More Transparent! Join the Conversation

13 06 2011

Allow me to  quote from the June 12, 2011 column by Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page Editor for the Free Press:

“Who will represent you in Congress, and in the state House and Senate, over the next decade? That’s none of your business. For now, at least.
Committees in the Legislature are hard at work bending boundaries, crunching numbers and looking at the balance of Democrat-Republican, rich-poor, black-white-Hispanic in all areas of Michigan.

But this important work is going on behind closed doors, with politicians not only in full command but also OK with a complete public and media blackout as they pick who their constituents will be. And while you’re in the dark, the state’s powerful special interests, without question, are peering over their shoulders, tweaking decisions in their favor. This is how it goes, over and over, decade after decade, in Michigan and lots of other states. It doesn’t matter which party is in power. Both consider the opportunity to control redistricting a political spoil, a chance to maximize partisan advantage and (just as frequently) save their own hides; incumbents of either party tend to be the biggest winners in most redistricting efforts.
The sad thing is that there was a great opportunity to do things differently this time, and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate balked.  Makes you wonder what they’re afraid the people might see.

The Legislature could have created an entire online civic experience around redistricting, something that could have gotten people involved and even educated about the importance of these decisions. The reluctance to do so looks even worse this year, because another group has been doing it successfully.  For months, the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative has been running a public competition that gives people the information and the tools to learn about the process and draw their own maps.

Using pretty sophisticated online software, the collaborative asked ordinary citizens to make the kinds of choices that legislators want to keep to themselves. The group has picked finalists for congressional, state House and state Senate maps. Winners, based on votes registered on the Web site, will be announced later this month — right around the time the Legislature may finally start publicizing its maps.  (You can take a look at the winning maps, and still draw your own, at www.michiganredistricting.org.)”

Data Driven Detroit has been a partner in this effort since its inception because it is a true example of our mission – to provide accessible high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making that will strengthen communities in Southeast Michigan.  Accessibility is the key – an open, democratic process that shares data with all entities.

It is not too late to see where things stand and to get your voice heard.  You are invited to join your Metro Detroit colleagues on June 16th for a discussion that will expand your knowledge about the Michigan redistricting process and potential problems with how legislative district boundaries are chosen. You’ll also have an opportunity to give input on potential approaches to reforming the current process. We need to bring more transparency and public input to redistricting in Michigan. The event is Thursday, June 16th at 6PM at Christ the King Parish (20800 Grand River Ave, Detroit).  Click here to register!
This is a wonderful opportunity to get involved before the lines are “set in stone.”
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