Saturday, January 1, 2011

Michigan Resolutions for 2011

We're not quite done with our out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new news business cliches here at Living Blue. We've had our top ten stories of 2010 and our top ten predictions for 2011. But there's one more cliche -- the New Year's resolutions.

So here we go, with the first of these resolutions.

Michigan should resolve -- it must resolve -- to reform major pieces of how it conducts business. And Democrats in Michigan should resolve to write ballot issues addressing them and to put them on the ballot in 2012.

The first should re-write the way Michigan re-districts itself. The process should be taken out of the hands of the Legislature and the courts and be turned over to the Legislature's non-partisan bill-writing agency, the Legislative Service Bureau.

The service bureau would be required to write a redistricting plan for state Senate, state House, and congressional districts that meets key criteria such as crossing a miniminum of political boundaries, are reasonably intact, and so on, while being nearly equal in population. The plan would be due to the Legislature by July 1. Lawmakers could either accept or reject it, without any changes. If it is rejected, a second plan would be prepared by the Legislative Service Bureau and presented to the Legislature by Aug. 1. Lawmakers could either accept it or reject it, but could make no changes. If that plan is rejected by lawmakers, the Legislative Service Bureau would write a third plan, which would automatically take effect.

This is roughly the "Iowa plan" for redistricting. It is not perfect, but it is far more fair than the political wrangling that usually takes place. The goal of redistricting should be to create districts that make sense for the voters, not that favor the party in power over the other party, as is the case in Michigan right now.

Now is the ideal time to talk about reforming redistricting, while the ugly process is playing itself out. Voters, to the extent they ever tune in on something as arcane as redistricting, will be more aware of it than at any other time. As Democrats talk about their ballot issue and the need for fair, non-partisan redistricting, the spotlight will be turned on Republicans and their dirty political dealing.

Democrats should resolve to take the high road and back reform of the redistricting process and now is the ideal time to do it.

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