McNeilly: Dems’ redistricting scheme is power grab

Greg McNeilly

Voters beware.

After another series of stinging electoral losses last fall, Democrats and liberal interest groups have revealed their scheme for Election Day dominance, and it has nothing to do with earning more trust from voters.

Here in Michigan, liberal organizations like Common Cause, the MEA, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU have partnered with Chicago’s ultra-liberal Joyce Foundation, and failed statewide Democratic candidates like Jocelyn Benson and 2014 gubernatorial loser Mark Schauer, launching an all-out assault on voters’ rights and accountability in Lansing.

Schauer, Benson, and their allies have begun talking up changes to the way Michigan draws legislative districts—something that happens just once every 10 years—with the unmistakable goal of a raw partisan power grab.

Democrats have consistently come up short on Election Day in races for the state House, Senate, and Congress (and in statewide contests, as Benson and Schauer can attest), but instead of focusing on recruiting better candidates, running better campaigns, or offering real solutions, they’re scheming to rig the system.

So they’re making the rounds, claiming the current redistricting system is unfair and pushing for a change that eliminates voter oversight and puts all of the power in the hands of an unelected “commission,” made up of Lansing elites selected by powerful, partisan powerbrokers.

Let’s be clear—Schauer and Benson’s redistricting scheme would eliminate accountability, break cities and communities into gerrymandered pieces, and lead to precisely the kind of partisan games electoral watchdogs rail against.

In order to understand how openly partisan their power grab is, it’s important to first understand how redistricting works today.

Map drawers now must conform to what are known as the “Apol Standards,” an exhaustive list of rules and regulations that ensure boundaries put communities first, not political parties.

Districts must be compact and connected. County boundaries must be respected, with district lines dividing county boundaries only when absolutely necessary to ensure districts do not exceed 105 percent of the legally permitted district population. If a county line must be broken, the fewest number of full cities or townships possible must be shifted.

The list goes on.

Drawing the maps is a task assigned to state lawmakers, while the Governor, whose election couldn’t have less to do with legislative boundaries, holds veto power over their finished product.

Voters select the men and women responsible for drawing the maps, and if they do a poor job of it, voters can toss them out. It’s that voter oversight partisans on the left seek to eliminate.

Under the Democrats’ plan, voters would no longer have a say in selecting the men and women responsible for drawing boundaries. That task would be shifted to an unelected commission selected by Lansing elites and special interests.

Claims that their effort is about “good government” and not about gaining a partisan advantage aren’t simply “too cute”—they’re laughable.

Just ask the Democrats. Last month, Schauer appeared on public radio in west Michigan where he promoted the liberal scheme, telling listeners he “would love to see a proposal for an independent redistricting commission on the ballot in Michigan, and would support it.”

But “independent” doesn’t mean what Mark Schauer thinks it means. In the same interview, the prominent Democrat admitted that he’s accepted a national role leading the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s redistricting Super PAC—the aptly-named “Advantage 2020 Initiative.”

Their goal? Put Democrats in charge of redistricting efforts across the country so the party can gerrymander districts that would elect more Democrats. This effort is not non-partisan. It’s mirrored in the legislature by Democrat proposals, endorsed by labor unions, and promoted by the state Democratic Party Chairman.

Democrats like Mark Schauer admit their gerrymandering scheme is more about expanding their own political power than in empowering voters. We should take them at their word, then tell them no.

Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.