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The founder of Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project says it’s easy to mock the shapes of districts, but he says sometimes odd looking districts are necessary to meet other criteria. Sam Wang says the amendment to Michigan’s Constitution approved by voters last year says districts should be compact and contiguous. But it also says communities of interest should be protected and parties should be treated fairly.

Graduate students at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Schools of International and Public Affairs recently completed a report on the new redistricting commission that will determine how Michigan’s next set of maps for Congressional and state Legislative districts will be drawn. Wang says Michigan has a great opportunity, but also faces serious challenges to ensure a fair process.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer giving her State of the State address Tuesday night February 13th, 2019. Photo by Jake Neher, WDET
Jake Neher / WDET

(MPRN and WDET) Since Governor Gretchen Whitmer took office, it’s been a lingering question whether the Republican-led Legislature can work with a Democratic governor to solve the state’s problems. During her first State of the State address, Whitmer made bipartisanship a central theme. 

 Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waves after her speech outside the state Capitol building, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osario / The Associated Press

For the first time since John Engler left office, Michigan has a governor with experience in the state Legislature. Michigan Public Radio Network reporter Cheyna Roth says Gretchen Whitmer knows “how things work within the Capitol Dome.” WDET reporter Jake Neher says Whitmer has been part of negotiations between the governor and lawmakers “to quote Hamilton, she was in the room where it happens.” Roth and Neher are the hosts of MichMash. A special one hour version of the program will examine the State of the State Tuesday, February 5th at 8:00p.m. on WMUK.

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Gretchen Whitmer spoke of bipartisanship during her inaugural address on New Year’s Day. Eight years ago, Rick Snyder also spoke of the parties coming together when he took office in 2011. WDET reporter Jake Neher says that’s usually how a new term starts, but he says it normally doesn’t take long before partisan bickering resumes. 

The Republican Snyder became governor at a time when the GOP held large majorities of the House and Senate. Republicans still have control of the Legislature although by slimmer margins in both chambers as Whitmer, a Democrat takes office. Michigan Public Radio Network reporter Cheyna Roth says that makes Whitmer’s call for bipartisanship “maybe not more sincere, but maybe a bit more necessary.” Neher and Roth host a special one hour MichMash on the State of the State. It will air Tuesday February 5th at 8:00p.m. on WMUK.

Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

Republicans in the state Legislature are trying to increase their power and limit the powers of statewide offices that – come January – will flip to Democrats.