Ex-GOP Congressman says he regrets supporting gerrymandering as 'blue wave' looms


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A former GOP Congressman explains why he's now working to dismantle gerrymandering — even though he voted for it and his party has benefited greatly from it in Michigan.

Penning an opinion piece for the Detroit Free Press, former Rep. John J.H. Schwarz says that though he voted for gerrymandering — the redrawing of districts to maximize partisan control — he now regrets it. Now, Schwarz serves on the board of Voters Not Politicians, a nonpartisan group pushing for a ballot initiative to end gerrymandering in Michigan.

"We know today our roads are broken, our education system is failing and water hasn't been safe to drink in communities from Rockford to Mio, Grayling to Flint," Schwarz writes. "And partisan redistricting is part of the reason why."

Under the current system, the political party in power gets to draw the lines for the next decade. "In 2011, that was the Republican Party in Michigan," Schwarz writes. "Politicians, aided by lobbyists, crafted maps behind closed doors then jammed them through the Legislature. The maps received no public hearings. They were intended for one purpose: To maximize Republican control."

But now, with a so-called "blue wave" on the rise around the country, Schwarz is changing his tune. "Democrats will have the chance to do the same," he says. "And that will be just as wrong."

Voters Not Politicians has submitted signatures to the Board of State Canvassers for a 2018 ballot proposal, which would would create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw Michigan's district maps. The group would be made up of four Republicans, four Democrats, and five independents. A new map would require at least two votes from each of the three groups, and meetings would be held in public.

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