Barton Deiters -
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- Gerrymandering: a topic that hearkens back to yawn-inducing high school civics classes but has a real impact on democracy.
In Michigan, districts are drawn up every 10 years by whichever party is in power. That has led to the way districts are divided sometimes bearing little resemblance to the will of the voters.
A grassroots effort started by a recent Aquinas College graduate and Caledonia resident aims to change that.
"We literally started from a Facebook post," said Katie Fahey, president and treasurer of "Voters – Not Politicians."
Fahey said that post in November has grown to a movement of more than 7,000 volunteers, including herself. She works full-time in Lansing.
"Michiganders were sick of the status quo. In the primaries, we voted for Bernie Sanders, we voted for Donald Trump and both of them are kind of those anti-establishment characters," Fahey said.
"You get these districts with tiny little funny shapes," said Erika King, political science professor at Grand Valley State University. "So you can do all sorts of things and that is considered legal."
The ballot proposal would mean the congressional districts at the state and national level would move out of the hands of the elected officials who have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are.
"Most of the districts in the United States are pretty one-sided. There are some competitive districts, but they are in the minority," King said. "And it's done, by the way, in every state of the United States by both political parties."
The group is awaiting approval from the state Board of Elections before it can begin gathering signatures.
"There's been numerous bills that have been introduced and never adopted and if they're not going to do anything, the people of Michigan will," Fahey said. "There's always going to be a conflict of interest in regards to our legislators. They're drawing the lines for the elections they are then running in."
The group needs to have 316,000 valid signatures to get the issue before voters, meaning they really have to gather 500,000 to be safe.
Fahey says her group has no big money behind it. She says Voters – Not Politicians is 100 percent volunteer work and funded by small donations. The group posts their finance records online to prove it.
"If we don't fix this, we'll never really have our legislators being as responsive as they should be," Fahey said.
In the U.S., 37 of 50 states draw their districts the way Michigan does.
In those states that use nonpartisan commissions like the one proposed here, there have been court battles, including a case out of Wisconsin that is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
It appears there has yet to be a solution that pleases everyone.
"This is correct," King said "This is called politics."