Political Insider: Schwarzenegger backs plan to 'terminate gerrymandering'

Jonathan Oosting and Beth LeBlanc
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
In this Dec. 12, 2017 file photo, Arnold Schwarzenegger waves as he arrives at the Elysee Palace prior to a meeting on climate change in Paris. Schwarzenegger is recovering in a Los Angeles hospital after undergoing heart surgery. He had a scheduled procedure to replace a pulmonic valve on Thursday, March 29, 2018, according to Schwarzenegger’s spokesman. He is in stable condition.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said this week he wants to “terminate gerrymandering” in every state and bashed the Michigan Republican Party for trying to “mislead people” about a redistricting initiative he is endorsing.

The movie star turned politician best known for his recurring movie role as The Terminator is backing a potential Michigan ballot proposal from Voters Not Politicians that would create a citizen commission to redraw political boundaries every decade.

While Schwarzenegger has feuded with his own party on various policy fronts, he is a high-profile Republican whose endorsement could help the Michigan committee counter claims its initiative is a vehicle for Democrats disgruntled by boundaries last drawn by majority GOP legislators.

“Gerrymandering is one of the greatest tricks that politicians have played on the American people,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “Voters don’t get to choose their politicians, politicians get to choose their voters, and it is hurting our democracy.”

The two-term governor left office in 2011 after backing a 2010 initiative that created a citizen redistricting commission. The new commission “has paid dividends for the people,” he said, “and I’m so pumped up that Voters Not Politicians is fighting to end the scam of gerrymandering in Michigan.”

The Michigan Republican Party jabbed Schwarzenegger on Twitter, posting a picture of jumbled political districts in the Los Angeles area purportedly drawn by California’s “so-called ‘Independent Commission.” Critics say the proposed Michigan commission would do little to curb irregularly shaped districts and could further break up contiguous communities.

But Schwazenegger fired back online, telling the Michigan GOP he hopes it campaigns better than it Googles, “because that isn’t our map.” He posted the accurate L.A. regional map online moments later. “Try harder next time and don’t mislead people,” he wrote.

“Imagine that, a party that wants to keep the status quo of politicians picking their voters,” Schwarzenegger wrote, suggesting legislative approval is up significantly in California since the state changed the way it draws boundaries for political representatives. “Fair districts work for voters, not parties.”

Schwarzenegger and former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, on Tuesday teamed up on a legal brief urging the Michigan Supreme Court to reject an opposition suit seeking to keep the redistricting commission proposal off the November ballot. 

Group appeals on Schuette emails

A group alleging that Attorney General Bill Schuette used private email accounts to conduct public business is taking its complaint to the Michigan Supreme Court.

A lawsuit filed by Progress Michigan in 2017 seeks emails that the group claims prove the attorney general's office used personal email accounts for state business. The group said it happened upon some emails sent from the private accounts through prior Freedom of Information Act requests.

When the group filed an open records request asking for emails to or from the attorney general's staff using personal email accounts for official duties dating back to 2010, Schuette’s office claimed they didn’t possess records meeting the description.

In April 2017, Progress Michigan filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims alleging Schuette violated the records law and failed to preserve state records. The attorney general’s office asked the Court of Claims to dismiss the suit because a representative of Progress Michigan did not sign and verify it, nor correct the mistake within a legal window of time.

The Court of Claims sided with Progress Michigan, but the state Court of Appeals reversed the decision and dismissed the case in favor of Schuette. Progress Michigan will file an appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court within the next few weeks.

In a statement Tuedsay, Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said the litigation is “rooted more in political theater than the law” and is “an unsuccessful attempt to distract" from Schuette's work to secure justice for Flint families, recover more child support and shut down scams. 

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Beth LeBlanc