Photos by Robert Degabriele and the author
On Saturday June 3 we were treated to an engaging and insightful presentation by Mark Brewer on Gerrymandering in Michigan. Mark Brewer is the former Michigan Democratic Party chair. He is engaged in combating gerrymandering in Michigan and engaged in a gerrymandering lawsuit to pursue that objective. Gerrymandering is a practice of constructing districts in convoluted ways that favor one party over another. Application of this practice can give a strong majority in the house to a party that actually received fewer votes.
Mark spoke to a nearly full house at Scholar's Hall. He is is a very dynamic speaker and we engaged in an extensive and lively question and answer session. We were provided illuminating insight and bold candor.
Those who missed this talk can learn about gerrymandering at a national level form many sources including this article in the Washington Post. You can get a Michigan centered view on gerrymandering by reading this article in The Bridge.
Michigan is the second worst state with respect to gerrymandering against Democrats.. For example, Democrats averaged 49.1 % of the Mi Senatorial votes in the last 4 elections, but we averaged only 36.8% of the seats. The progression worsened in recent years as the result of Republican led redistricting.
The story for our US house elections in Michigan is similar; in the last 8 elections Democrats averaged 49% of the vote, but and took 40% of the seats. Again the progression is worse in recent elections. One might note that in ’06 we took 54.7% of the vote and only won 40% of the seats. In ’12 we took 50.9% of the vote and won only 35.7% of the seats.
We learned that the history of gerrymandering dates back to the the Democratic-Republican party in 1812. The process is named after Governor Gerry who created a salamander shaped district. Left is a political cartoon fromthe era.
Above 1812 cartoon from Wikipedia Left Steven Ness diagram from Wikipedia
Mark showed us a diagram similar to the one above right which shows that if one knows where the Democratic and Republican households are located one can create a victory with a minority of the votes by controlling the district boundaries.
If you share with Mark and the author the desire to combat gerrymandering you can do the following things:
Educate others about partisan gerrymandering
Join League of Women Voters
Urge the League of Women Voters to pursue redistricting reform in Michigan as they have done in other states
Support the crowd funding effort for the gerrymandering lawsuit at www.endmigerrymandering.com