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Aquinas alums and professor fight against gerrymandering

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Story by Ty Smith, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Ty Smith

Look out, politicians — gerrymandering might be on the chopping block come the 2018 election. For those who don’t know, Michigan, like all other states, is separated into different congressional districts. These congressional districts determine the representatives for local and national matters. The boundaries of these districts are redrawn every ten years. Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating those boundaries in order to make each district favor one party every election.

Dr. Molly Patterson is a professor of political science here at Aquinas College who is part of a statewide effort to make gerrymandering illegal.

“Gerrymandering is a problem to the extent that it manipulates the political system to produce a distorted outcome.” Dr. Patterson said. “The point of having a representative democracy is to produce a microcosm of the electorate, and if you’re drawing districts to literally misrepresent the people, it betrays the whole idea of having a representative government.”

Republicans have long been accused by the Democrats of gerrymandering districts to hold onto power, and this is true. However, Democrats have done the same in several states. Gerrymandering is a tool both parties use to stay in power, despite the will of the voters.

“Look at Maryland, look at California, look at Texas. You can find it across the board.” Dr. Patterson said. “Both parties do it.”

However, it’s not hopeless to break the influence of gerrymandering on elections. There is a non-partisan statewide initiative called CountMIVote to end partisan manipulation of districts. This organization was founded by AQ Alumnus Katie Fahey.

“This will not be easy.” Dr. Patterson said. “This is more a David and Goliath battle, and  [Fahey] has found people across the state that want to work on this. There are three or four policy committees working across the state, and I have been helping out with that.”

The ballot committee that will eventually attempt to put this issue to vote is called Voters Not Politicians. Once the language of the proposal has been agreed upon, the committee will have 180 days to collect 350,000 signatures, and if they do so, the proposal will be included in the 2018 midterm elections. They will need many volunteers to educate, recruit, and collect signatures for this proposal to even get off the ground.

If they do collect 350,000 signatures, though, their job is not done. It will be up to them to educate about and advertise their ballot initiative, and they still will need the manpower to do so. Dr. Patterson expects to be outspent 20 to 1, because there will be money coming in from outside the state in order to block their initiative.

“There’s going to be a lot of disinformation.” Dr. Patterson said, because it is in the interest of political groups to keep gerrymandering around. “We’re going to need people to collect signatures, we’re going to need people to coordinate those who collect signatures, we’re going to need publicity and education. Explain it to friends and family members. If this goes on the ballot, there are going to be a lot of people who don’t know what gerrymandering is, and that’ll be our biggest issue.”

To help out this initiative, go to votersnotpoliticians.com or countmivote.org, and click the volunteer button.

About the Writer:

Ty SmithTy Smith is from a small town located in the thumb of Michigan. He loves writing, reading, music, and video games. He also believes that cats are better than dogs.

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