GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the three proposals voters will cast ballots on next week would change the way legislative district lines are drawn in Michigan.
Proposal 2, which had to overcome several legal challenges to make it to the ballot, would create a bipartisan commission to set district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress.
“Gerrymandering is technically legal to do right now, but this will actually make that illegal,” explained Katie Fahey with Voters Not Politicians, the group that got the issue on the ballot.
Her group argues that when the controlling political party gets to redrawn lines to its favor — which is how the process works now — voters lose their voices and representatives aren’t as responsive.
“The status quo is that politicians, lobbyists and special interests go behind closed doors, draw up these maps to guarantee election results based on political parties,” Fahey said, “but Proposal 2 will actually bring that entire process out into the open.”
Opponents argue that the proposed method wouldn’t create new problems.
“The reality is this is a costly proposal, It is unaccountable, it’s complex and it is unfair,” said Tony Daunt with opponent group Protect My Vote.
He said it’s unfair in part because hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan would be excluded from the process because they are or have been involved in some way in the political process. He also pointed out that the plan establishes minimums for the commission salaries and expenses, but no maximums.
Proposal 2 aims to create an independent commission. That may sound appealing, but there is the question of whether it’s possible to find truly independent people. Additionally, it could be difficult to identify who’s a Republican, Democrat or Independent because Michigan doesn’t register voters by party.
Fahey has a solution for that.
“They’ll all have to actually sign an oath just like you would if you were attending in court. If people lie, it will be an act of perjury,” she said.
Daunt said he is skeptical of politicians and government and doesn’t defend all of processes involved in the current redistricting system, but he doesn’t see Proposal 2 as an acceptable replacement.
“What we have right now is Proposal 2, that’s what’s in front of us and on November 6th, we need to vote yes or vote no. Based on the cost, the blank check nature, the complexity, the 3,200 words going into the constitution, it’s clear that Proposal 2 is not the way to do this,” he said.
But Fehay argues that if implemented, the new plan would result in transparency and public input.
“Providing the voters a safeguard to have trust in the system again,” she said.
Here is the full ballot language for Proposal 2:
A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years.
This proposed constitutional amendment would:
- Create a commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected by the Secretary of State:
- 4 each who self-identify as affiliated with the 2 major political parties; and
- 5 who self-identify as unaffiliated with major political parties
- Prohibit partisan officeholders and candidates, their employees, certain relatives, and lobbyists from serving as commissioners
- Establish new redistricting criteria including geographically compact and contiguous districts of equal population, reflecting Michigan’s diverse population and communities of interest. Districts shall not provide disproportionate advantage to political parties or candidates.
- Require an appropriation of funds for commission operations and commissioner compensation.
Should this proposal be adopted?
>>Online: Michigan Voter Information Center