Anti-gerrymandering group continues fight for independent panel

Anti-gerrymandering group continues fight for independent panel.

Flint, Mich.

A political issue being debated could have a big impact in your future: redistricting and gerrymandering.

States are required to redraw district maps every ten years. This is called redistricting.

Redistricting is supposed to ensure lawmakers accurately represent the community. But critics say former GOP lawmakers redrew the maps to unfairly favor them in our state.

Critics say they drew their district lines to include voters they know will vote for them, which is what gerrymandering is: the redrawing of district maps for political advantage.

The organization, Voters not Politicians, say they are trying to end gerrymandering.

They held a town hall at Tenacity Brewery in Flint.

Organizers say District 5 is a gerrymandered area. It includes Flint, Saginaw and snakes north to Iosco County.

Spokesperson from Voters not Politicians, Amir Baghdadchi, says the way the district lines are drawn, it packs Democrats together and unfairly isolates those votes. The city of Saginaw is included in District 5, but not the suburbs. Baghdadchi says this causes Saginaw voters to lose a say in their entire community and even the elected officials making decisions on their behalf.

Baghdadchi says gerrymandering deprives voters of political power.

"When you do a little bit of distortion in one part of the state, it can lead to big distortion everywhere," he says.

Voters not Politicians has proposed an amendment to change this on the November ballot. They received enough petition signatures to get this on the ballot. If voters approve it, the amendment would allow a non-partisan panel to redraw district lines, no longer leaving that task to lawmakers.

But earlier this week, an opposing group, Citizen's Protecting Michigan's Constitution, wants the state Supreme Court to put a hold on it.

The group's spokesperson, Dave Doyle, says the issue with the proposal's language.

"As it's worded, it makes a lot of changes to the Michigan Constitution that were not spelled out in the petition that was circulated," he tells NBC 25/FOX 66 News.

We repeatedly asked him if they would support having an independent commission over the redistricting, if the language was changed. He wouldn't address that question.

"We are not talking about anything other than this particular petition," he says.

Doyle also wouldn't comment on the criticism that gerrymandered districts don't reflect the demographics.

Baghdadchi calls it a manipulation that takes away accountability from lawmakers.

"It doesn't matter if 80% of an area or state is in favor of an issue, if that's what a politician wants to do, they're not accountable to those areas," he says.

If this does go on the ballot and is approved by voters, the independent panel that would draw the district lines would consist of four democrats, four republicans and five independents.

Baghdadchi says if approved, the lines would get redrawn in 2020 when the census is done.

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