VNP talks Proposal Two

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Jackie Jahfetson

Voters will have many issues to consider when casting their ballot in November, one of them being a proposal that supports creating a new commission to draw voting district lines.

Gene Champagne, education coordinator of the group Voters Not Politicians (VNP), talked to a group of 40 people at the Superior Dome Wednesday night to discuss Proposal 2, which regards gerrymandering and why it’s important to create an independent commission with citizens doing the redistricting.

The Northern Center for Lifelong Learning (NCLL) hosted a presentation titled “Gerrymandering: What is it and why should you know?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Superior Dome in Room 101B. The speaker and education coordinator of VNP, Gene Champagne, stressed that gerrymandering is a real issue in Michigan that needs to be reversed.

Gerrymandering is a term used to describe voting districts drawn to give one political party an advantage over the other.

Whether people know a little bit about gerrymandering or nothing at all, this presentation always manages to surprise people at how politicians are “rigging” the system,
Champagne said.

“It really knocks them on their fanny when they realize how it is manipulated and how precisely it is manipulated. And how serious it is that it’s going to continue this way if it’s not changed right away,” Champagne said.

Currently, Michigan legislators draw the district lines. Under Proposal 2, the 13-member independent commission drawing the district lines would consist of four Democrats, four Republicans and five voters from non-affiliated groups who are all chosen randomly. VNP began with 3,000 volunteers that wanted to change how the system is “rigged,” Champagne noted. The group received over 425,000 signatures from each county in Michigan, totaling earning the proposal a place on November’s ballot.

“Democracy is not easy to keep. It’s hard work. Nothing’s free, not even democracy,” Champagne said. “I hope people will realize how serious enough it is to volunteer like I did. This is citizen driven. If you want to make change, this is the very building block of our democracy.”

The NCLL is an organization with 150 to 200 members that works to coordinate events and programs that are informative and educational. The group hosts around 80 programs a year incorporating science, nature, the arts, etc. Senior citizens mostly make up the membership, but all are welcome, NCLL program liaison Sally
Olsen said.

Proposal language can be confusing and it’s important people understand what they’re voting for or against, she added.

“It’s getting close to November, so time is of the essence here. To me that’s a big deal,” Olsen said. “[People will] leave with some knowledge that they didn’t have before.”