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Can Voters End Gerrymandering When Politicians Won’t?

On Election Day, voters in Michigan, Utah, Missouri, and Colorado will decide if independent commissions—not lawmakers—should draw their states’ political districts.
Ashley Oleson, an activist with the League of Women Voters of Maryland, carries googley-eyed signs of Maryland's gerrymandered districts in a March 2018 demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ashley Oleson, an activist with the League of Women Voters of Maryland, carries googley-eyed signs of Maryland's gerrymandered districts in a March 2018 demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Winter is a grueling time to launch a campaign from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Yet that’s where, in March 2017, advocates kicked off a state initiative to end gerrymandering, one of four state ballot measures going up for a vote next week. Despite the frigid weather in Marquette, one of the state’s frostiest cities, a town hall garnered about 70 concerned residents—not a bad showing for a grassroots push, and a promising start in an effort to organize 33 town halls over 33 days.

Since then, Voters Not Politicians has snowballed. The group aims to put a stop to political gerrymandering, the much-maligned practice that enables majority party leaders, Republican and Democratic alike, to redraw political districts to their maximum advantage. Voters Not Politicians gathered 425,000 signatures to put a new plan for redistricting up for a vote, many more than the law requires. This anti-gerrymandering initiative—Proposal 2 on Michigan’s ballot in the election on November 6—seeks to establish an independent commission that would draw the state’s congressional districts.