Redistricting discussion brings understanding at LWV forum


Photo by Sherri Kolade
Senate Democratic Caucus Information Services director Mike Vatter (left) holds up a map before the League of Women Voters Dearborn-Dearborn Heights, during a discussion on redistricting in Michigan on March 26 at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn. State Sen. Morris Hood (right) helps clarify information about the redistricting maps for the State House districts for 2012. Vatter holds up a map for the redistricting areas in Michigan for the 2014 Senate Districts. The discussion gave way to topics including how redistricting affects local voters and the history and guidelines of redistricting.

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Public officials explained the detailed process and history of redistricting March 26 and how it affects every resident in Michigan.

State Sen. Morris Hood and Mike Vatter, Senate Democratic Caucus Information Services director, spoke about the topic before a crowd at the Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, 120 N. Military at Cherry Hill.

The event, hosted by the League of Women Voters Dearborn-Dearborn Heights, hoped to clear up any confusion about the state legislature’s process of redrawing state and congressional district lines every ten years. The redistricting lines were drawn in Michigan in 2010.

Michigan lost population (the only state to do so) according to the 2010 Census, causing redistricting because the state lost one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The biggest three Michigan counties with population losses were Wayne with 135,314, Genesee with 12,098 and Saginaw with 9,989.

Redistricting comes down to state officials representing the people in their designated communities, said Hood, whose district includes Dearborn and Melvindale, but no longer River Rouge.

“Redistricting is a very personal thing for legislators,” Hood said.

Because members of Congress and state legislators are elected from districts at least once per decade, the district lines are redrawn block by block, Hood said.

“The way the lines are drawn can keep a community together or split it apart, leaving it without a representative who feels responsible for its concerns,” he said.

Redistricting can also change who wins an election.

“Ultimately the way the lines are drawn can change who wins, who controls the legislature, and which laws get passed,” Hood added.

The city of Dearborn will fall in the recently drawn 12th District during the 2014 elections.

After the most recent redistricting change, State Rep. David Nathan’s (D-Detroit) district does no longer include a section of east Dearborn. The east Dearborn section is now in Michigan’s 15th District, where State Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn) serves.

Currently Dearborn is split between the 14th and 15th districts, served by U.S. Rep. John Conyers and U.S. Rep. John Dingell.

Vatter, who has been involved in redistricting three times since 1990, said technology has made the process easier.

Vatter explained the history of redistricting and said bad things can happen during the redistricting process.

In several slide presentations, he pointed out that redistricting can allow politicians to choose their voters by area, eliminate incumbents and challengers, pack partisans, dilute minority votes and split communities.

“Redistricting has a huge influence on winning,” he said.

New district maps can be viewed by the public at the League of Women Voters offices.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)

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