LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An anti-gerrymandering group on Tuesday began airing its first TV ad in a campaign to persuade voters to change how Michigan congressional and legislative districts are drawn, appealing especially to independents and Republicans by noting former President Ronald Reagan’s criticism of the practice.
Voters Not Politicians launched the one-minute ad more than three months before the November election. The buy appears to be a small, starting on Fox News for $23,000 for one week, though the ballot committee said it will be “expansive” and also appear on broadcast stations and online.
The group, whose volunteers already have been going door to door to talk to people about the proposed constitutional amendment, said running an initial ad now is a chance to jumpstart the campaign while voters are paying more attention due to the upcoming August primary. The measure would strip the Legislature’s authority to handle redistricting and empower a 13-member independent commission to do it instead.
“What we consistently see is once people hear about this proposal … we just see stronger support,” said Voters Not Politicians executive director Katie Fahey. “There are not a lot of people who are pro-gerrymandering in our state. But our ability to actually go and reach voters is really critical in our ability to be successful.”
While the measure has been certified for a public vote, there is still a chance the state Supreme Court could overrule the state appeals court and toss the proposal off the ballot. A group affiliated with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce contends the initiative is a constitutional revision, not a simple amendment, and should be disqualified .
Gerrymandering is the process of a political party shaping legislative and congressional maps to maintain or expand their hold on power. Michigan Republicans, who controlled redistricting after the 2010 Census, hold nine of the state’s 14 congressional seats, a 27-10 supermajority in the state Senate and a 63-46 edge in the House.
The ad says America was built on people’s freedom to choose their leaders, but when Lansing politicians “manipulate the process by picking their own voters, it undermines our democracy.” The ad shows oddly shaped congressional and legislative districts in Michigan and says Reagan once called gerrymandering a “national disgrace.”
Fahey, who helped spearhead the grassroots ballot drive, appears in the second half of the ad. She says the initiative would ensure that redistricting is done in public with transparency and end gerrymandering by any party.