Voter Suppression And Gerrymandering, A Coffee And Conversation At St. James Episcopal Church

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By Lynne Beauchamp,

Two ballot proposals directed toward voting policy could be on this November’s ballot.

During the Coffee and Conversation at St. James Episcopal Church in Dexter on June 14, two speakers were featured to discuss the proposals.

Sue Smith, President of the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters (LWV), spoke on “Promote the Vote” in which LWV is supporting.

A “Promote the Vote” petition had been circulated to Michigan voters for signatures so that it can be placed on the November ballot (deadline for signatures was June 23 so that the signatures could be turned into the Secretary of State by June 30). This proposal, according to Smith, would make voting more accessible, secure and fair in Michigan.

She explained the proposed changes to the Michigan Constitution, if adopted, “would provide citizens qualified to vote in Michigan the right to vote a secret ballot; for military and overseas voters to be sent a ballot 45 days before an election; to vote straight party on all partisan general election ballots; to be automatically registered to vote when obtaining a driver’s license or personal identification card from the Secretary of State, unless the person declines; to register to vote by mail on or before the 15th day before an election; to register to vote in person at any time with proof of residency; to vote an absentee ballot, by mail or in person, without giving a reason; and to have election results audited to ensure the accuracy of elections”.

These changes, according to Smith, will allow more time and convenience to become a registered voter; more time to turn in votes from military and overseas voters; and audits ensure accuracy.

According to its website, the LWV is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, influences public policy through education and advocacy and does not support or oppose any political party or candidate

The second speaker, Elizabeth Hammer, from “Voters not Politicians” spoke on a petition to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

According to Hammer, this proposal would also amend the Michigan Constitution to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. If adopted, per proposal language, “the amendment would transfer the authority to draw Congressional and State Legislative district lines from the Legislature and Governor to the Independent Commission. The selection process will be administered by the Secretary of State. Thirteen commissioners will be randomly selected from a pool of registered voters and consist of four members who self-identify with each of the two major political parties, and five non-affiliated, independent members. Current and former partisan elected officials, lobbyists, party officers and their employees are not eligible to serve.”

Hammer, a Chelsea resident for forty years, explained she has lived in five different Congressional districts, yet has never moved.  She explained the redistricting lines over time.

“Voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around,” Hammer said. She said gerrymandering is “when politicians manipulate district boundary lines to pick their voters and get themselves reelected.”

Hammer explained the rules of redistricting per US Federal Law-district maps are redrawn every 10 years when new census data is available, to reflect equal population and to adhere to equality. In Michigan, redistricting power is given to the state legislature. She showed how redistricting lines have evolved over time and said lines have been manipulated to “ensure certain politicians are reelected”.

“Voters Not Politicians” would like to see the power of redistricting given to the people and not the politicians.

To obtain more information on these proposals, visit or or .

St. James Episcopal Church hosts monthly Coffee and Conversation programs on a variety of topics.

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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