Lansing redistricting proposal aimed at improving voting access
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope has a proposal he believes can reduce long lines at the city’s polling sites. It involves drawing new voting boundaries and creating two new precincts. We talk with Swope about that idea and other election topics.
Michigan’s presidential primary election is less than four months away. Of course, no one yet knows how many candidates from this historically large field will still be standing when voters go to the polls. The turnout on March 8 could be quite large, which could lead to long lines and few parking spaces.
The Lansing city clerk’s office is proposing a plan to reduce the long waits by re-distributing voters into other precincts. The city will present the plan at the first in a series of public hearings tonight in Lansing.
Current State talks about the plan with the clerk for the city of Lansing, Chris Swope.
EDITED INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
Why does Lansing need to re-draw some voting precincts?
We have 43 precincts in the city of Lansing and we reduced that from 62 in 2007. I’m proposing adding two precincts back so we’ll go from 43 to 45 precincts and I think that’ll help alleviate two specific areas and as I was creating the additional precincts, I was able to look at ‘okay, what neighboring precincts could use a little bit of relief?’
We have some high turnout areas and it just makes sense to split some of those up. It will really benefit a lot of people and by and large, this plan puts more people voting closer to their home.
The proposal would create two new voting precincts. If it’s approved, do you anticipate it being a challenge to re-direct voters to a new place?
I think there will be (a challenge). We always find that when we change locations, which unfortunately, we have to do from time to time. It definitely is an issue that we think about, which is why I want to get it into effect for the March election because we actually have four elections next year. We’re targeting everything toward what’s going to happen November of 2016.
How much authority does the city have to redraw voting districts? What is the process for redistributing polling locations?
It’s a two-stage process actually. The election commission is responsible for the precinct boundaries. That’s made up of myself, the city attorney and the city assessor. No representation is changing, just where people may vote or what precinct they live in.
The second part of it is the city council is responsible for adopting the polling locations. So setting the specific polling places for the two new precincts has to be done by city council.