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Friday, November 30, 2012

Ballot initiatives and rethinking gerrymandering in Michigan's constitution

Voters in Michigan sent back six proposed constitutional amendments this month. It is heartening to know that citizens are at least sometimes too smart for the money and advertising rampant in our political system. The people did decide.

The fact that so many random amendments were on the ballot has me considering that it might be time to push for something truly meaningful and game-changing as a constitutional amendment in this state.

In particular, I think it would be extremely beneficial for all Americans if Michigan leads the way in combating the ill-conceived, unjust practice of gerrymandering by adopting a constitutional amendment to place the responsibility of redrawing electoral districts in the hands of non-partisan technocrats. These demographers should be mandated to redistrict Michigan in a way that promotes moderate candidates from all parties, rather than having a handful of Red and Blue districts that will automatically elect whichever Republican or Democrat emerges from the primaries, even if they are foolish, insane, criminals, Santa Claus, or a devolved primate.

The fact of the matter is that Congress had an approval rating in the low teens, and a re-election rate close to 90%. Democracy in action and at its worst. Our system breeds uncompromising extremists on both sides, and we are paying the price as a country. The looming fiscal cliff is only the latest in a series of failings by our national leadership. Redrawing the electoral lines to promote more reasonable candidates should be a national priority, and Michigan can lead the way. I hope our unions, businesses, and other advocates consider this option – uncertainty, extremism, and a bi-polar government serve no one's interest, neither the right nor the left.

To be sure, Michigan might on average have fewer senior, powerful, tenured representation in Congress. However, the folks we do send to DC will be moderate deal-makers, willing to cross the aisle and compromise - in today's Washington, there is no one more powerful (think back to the passage of healthcare reform, where a handful of representatives in the middle had out-sized influence on the outcome).