Group to present petitions at annual bridge walk

By LISA BOWERS

Journal Staff Writer

MACKINAW CITY – Members of Voters Not Politicians, a grassroots organization seeking to change the way voting districts in the state are drawn, will be asking participants at the Mackinac Bridge walk on Monday for signatures.

VNP, a nonpartisan group, hopes to circulate petitions to over 60,000 walkers to put an end to gerrymandering — a process by which the political party in power creates voting districts favoring its own candidates.

VNP is proposing that an independent commission of Michigan voters draw the districts used to elect congressional and state legislative representatives, a change that would require an amendment to the state constitution, according to a news release from the group.“Gerrymandering results in oddly shaped voting districts created to keep one party’s candidates in office,” VNP spokesperson Katie Fahey said. “Politicians are telling voters that their voices don’t matter. In shifting authority to an independent commission, voters can regain the right to choose their representatives.”

Legislators and the governor determine voting boundaries for Michigan’s Congressional and state legislative districts, the release states.

“The proposed amendment calls for a 13-person commission of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters or members of a third party to assume that responsibility,” the release states. “Guidelines are included to avoid conflicts of interest among potential members. To assure transparency, the amendment requires that the commission’s decisions and data are made available to the public.”

Volunteers will also collect signatures as they circulate among crowds Monday at both ends of the bridge, the release states.

The organization has already collected 40,000 of the 315,654 valid signatures necessary to place the proposal on the 2018 ballot as an amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

All signatures must be collected by the end of February in order for the proposal to appear on the ballot in the Nov. 6, 2018 election.

Voter districts are redrawn to reflect population changes after each U.S. census, the next of which will occur in 2020.

To get more information about Voters Not Politicians, or sign the petition, visit the organization’s website at www.votersnotpoliticians.com.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.