Opinion: Prevent gerrymandering in Grand Traverse County | Opinion

Michiganders said ‘no’ to gerrymandering in 2018 when we gave voters, not politicians, the power to reconfigure voting cards. But the anti-gerrymandering law only applies to federal and state counties, not counties, which are being remodeled the old way: through a process controlled by the ruling party.

Grand Traverse County can be prone to gerrymandering unless the County Reaplationment Commissions tasked with it pledge to party the community and create fair districts.

Electoral districts should be compact and communities (municipalities, towns and villages) should hold together as a unit. But when party politicians in power control the redistribution, they can break up parishes and stretch district boundaries in monstrous forms to group voters by party; in fact, to choose their constituents. This makes it easier to stay in power even when they no longer represent the majority. You can also make the difference by adding or subtracting districts. Before 2010, our county had nine districts. We have seven now. The reallocation committee can decide on up to 21 districts or up to five districts.

This is important. District commissioners decide how to spend our money and they will soon have a godsend. Over the next three years, our county will receive $ 18 million from the American Rescue Plan. The 2020 National Community Survey shows us that Grand Traverse County’s residents want affordable housing, childcare, and broadband. Our commissioners have not dealt exactly with such issues.

Instead, our county made international headlines in January when a commissioner responded to a voter’s request by showing a semi-automatic rifle in a meeting. If we want commissioners whose only focus is on improving our county and the lives of our people, fair electoral constituencies are a must.

People have been paying attention since January who didn’t have the county commission on their radar. The Zoom audience for meetings has steadily increased. The commissioners are starting to do real work and even pass bipartisan resolutions. The lesson: it’s easier to hold officials accountable when they know we’re watching. Now is the time to show the Grand Traverse County’s Reallocation Committee that we are watching their work, too. The commission, which consists of four Republicans and one Democrat, may have no intention of manipulating districts. But we don’t know because they didn’t tell us how to go about it.

Voters can ensure that the Redistribution Commission is committed to full transparency, draws fair boundaries, and makes itself responsible for decisions. Ask District Secretary Bonnie Scheele ([email protected]):

  • Have a public session to explain the redistribution process, schedule, and standards.
  • Always involve the public; invite comments at the beginning and end of each meeting.
  • Make data easily available. Record, live stream, transcribe and post all procedures.
  • Promise the commission will explain the reasons for each decision.

Don’t let politicians vote their constituents. Tell Grand Traverse County’s Reallocation Committee that we expect fairness and transparency. Encourage local news organizations to report on the redistribution. Keep watching.

About the author: Shelley Cowan, a Peninsula Township resident, is a retired communications strategist who has worked with Fortune 100 companies and a citizen involved in community affairs.

About the author: Shelley Cowan, a Peninsula Township resident, is a retired communications strategist who has worked with Fortune 100 companies and a citizen involved in community affairs.

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