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The League of Women Voters will host over 30 Town Halls throughout the fall to educate the public on the importance of redistricting. Their presentation will explore how legislative lines are drawn in Michigan, who draws them and why it is a critically important question for those concerned about fair representation.
"In Michigan the district lines are drawn by elected officials in the legislature, effectively allowing politicians to choose their voters, rather than voters their elected leaders," said Judy Karandjeff, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. "This system gives the political party in power at the time a tremendous advantage but is this the best system for voters? Our Town Halls will explore central questions, such as: What are the consequences of partisan drawn districts that favor one party over another? Is there a better and fairer way to do this? What are the alternatives?"
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on Arizona's Independent Restricting Commission said there is an alternative and that citizens, not just politicians, have the right to decide how Congressional district lines are drawn. The decision has grabbed the public's attention. Some have asked if Michigan, like Arizona, should use an independent commission to draw the lines, not only for the Congressional Districts, but for the State House and Senate, as well. This alternative and others will be explored in-depth at the town hall.
"Government is supposed to of, by and for the people, but more and more it seems to ordinary voters that their voices are not being heard and that our elected leaders are becoming more extreme, less compromising and more disconnected from a public they are supposed to serve," said President Karandjeff. "Instead, special interests and lobbyists seem to get the attention of our elected leaders. We need to ask fundamental questions about why this is happening and whether allowing politicians to draw their own districts contributes to the problem." A complete list of Town Halls by date and location can be found on the League of Women Voters website at http://www.lwvmi.org. The events are free and open to the public. All are invited to attend.
It is not uncommon for outsiders, and even some members, to question how the League can be nonpartisan yet advocate on positions that, in the slice of time that is now, appear to be partisan. In the highly partisan climate that has developed in recent years, the League is one of the very few political organizations that is not in either the liberal/Democratic camp or the conservative/Republican camp. And we have members of all political persuasions and encourage them to get involved in politics. So members may be partisan but the organization is not. All this is hard for many to wrap their minds around.
The League is nonpartisan in that we do not endorse or support any political party or candidate for office. We don't rate legislators, we don't track their votes and we don't threaten them if they don't vote our way. Voter service is one of our main missions and we publish nonpartisan voter guides and hold candidate forums to help voters educate themselves beyond TV ads. Education is an important League function, and we try in our meetings and in this newsletter to inform our attendees/readers and stimulate them to think about issues in our world.
However, the League is also an advocacy group, and we have positions on issues that have been developed over the years since our founding in 1920 and are the result of study and consensus of the local Leagues nationwide. These positions are updated from time to time, but are basically consistent. The positions and platforms of the political parties, on the other hand, do change and at times they resemble our League positions, or not. But the League doesn't change or drop it's positions because they are currently those of one party or the other. And we do speak out!
An example is health care. The League has a position on comprehensive health care for all Americans. President Truman liked that idea too and President Eisenhower delivered a special message to Congress on January 31, 1955 recommending a comprehensive health program for Americans. Lyndon Johnson got Medicare passed and that took the pressure off for awhile. But President Nixon encouraged HMOs as a way to rein in costs and provide health care for more people. Then President Reagan came along and decided the free market was the best way to manage health care and the Republicans have basically supported this idea since. But clearly both parties have been on both sides of the issue.
The key is not to confuse politics with position advocacy.