Michigan’s Proposal 2: Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Initiative

Michigan is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. It is one of 37 states that gives full authority over redistricting to the state legislature — in other words, to politicians. The only check on the legislature’s full authority to draw district lines is a potential gubernatorial veto on the final redistricting map, but yet the decision-maker is still a politician. Allowing politicians to draw district maps is a blatant conflict of interest. It allows politicians to choose their voters, instead of letting voters choose their politicians.

Allowing politicians to draw district maps is a blatant conflict of interest.

Proposal 2, put forth by Voters Not Politicians, will transfer the authority to draw voting districts from the state legislature to an independent commission of citizens who will travel the state to hear from fellow voters about how they want to be represented. When state legislatures draft district maps, they allocate voters into the specific districts where they will be casting their ballots to vote. This authority allows elected officials to influence elections by giving themselves (or their political party) an unfair advantage. Without fair maps drawn by an impartial commission, the people of Michigan will not have fair legislative representation, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. On November 6th, voters can remove politicians from the redistricting process in Michigan, by voting yes on Proposal 2.

Michigan Has Some of The Worst Election Maps in The Country

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing electoral district boundaries in distorted shapes in order favor a specific group. Historically, gerrymandering has been used for partisan advantage and has been a long-term strategy used by the GOP to entrench their power. Indeed, most of the gerrymandered districts in the country have been drafted by Republicans. Fundamentally, gerrymandering undermines a fair and representative democracy.

Michigan has some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country, with its current district maps dividing geographic communities, neighborhoods, and school districts. In 2016, Republicans and Democrats gained almost an equal amount of votes in Congressional races. Yet despite this, due to Michigan’s gerrymandered maps, Republicans took 64% of the congressional seats and the margins weren’t even close (no races were decided by a margin less than 10%). In Michigan state house races in 2016, Democrats narrowly won more votes — yet Republicans took 63 out of 110 seats due to gerrymandered maps.

Michigan politicians have drawn state-level and congressional district maps that directly benefit themselves and their special interest backers, instead of putting the interests of Michiganders first. Without fair maps, our communities are not accurately represented.

Without fair maps, our communities are not accurately represented.

As expected, Republican officials across the country have been strongly opposed to giving the authority to draw election maps to citizens in order to remove politicians and lobbyists from the process.  But according to recent polls, Proposal 2 has bipartisan support and 48% of voters intend to vote yes (with 20% of voters still undecided, and 32% planning to vote no). Despite this widespread support, there was a legal battle to get Proposal 2 onto the ballot, but ultimately, the state’s Supreme Court decided to allow Michigan voters to decide. The proposal will need a majority of voters to vote “yes” to pass.

Voters Not Politicians is the grassroots, non-partisan movement dedicated to giving redistricting power back to voters, that has been leading the campaign to get the initiative onto the ballot and pass it in November. During the signature collection phase, the campaign collected over 425,000 signatures and  secured its place on the November ballot. They strongly believe voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around. The primary goal is to end gerrymandering and implement a fair, impartial and transparent solution to redistricting.

Proposal 2 removes politicians from the redistricting process

Proposal 2 will amend the Michigan state constitution to establish a committee of 13 voters (4 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 5 non-party affiliated members) to serve on an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission will receive funds to hire consultants and experts to help draft the district maps. The Commission will be composed of ordinary citizens who will undertake a transparent process, including collecting public input, to draw fair district maps that follow specific criteria.

Criteria for drawing district maps

Under Proposal 2, the Commission members are required to follow a few specific criteria in drawing their maps:

  • Equal population sizes: Each district must contain approximately the same number of residents to be in compliance with federal voting rights laws.

  • Voting Rights Act compliance: The federal Voting Rights Act protects against racial discrimination in voting.

  • Geographic factors: Districts must try not to split existing city, town, or county boundaries.

  • Prioritize communities of interest: Districts must maintain geographically connected communities and keep communities together that share similar historical, cultural, or economic interests. A community of interest cannot be defined by political affiliation.

  • No advantages to political parties or candidates: Maps must not give partisan advantage to one party over another, or to specific candidates or incumbents.

  • Contiguous: Every district must be a single, unbroken shape.

  • Reasonably compact: We’ve all seen long, narrow districts that sprawl across a state in order to include or exclude specific voters. In Michigan’s proposal, compactness is a factor.

Commission Member Application and Selection Process

Under Proposal 2, the Secretary of State will send 10,000 applications to randomly selected registered voters. For those not selected, all eligible, registered voters can submit an application to join the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The Secretary of State would be responsible for narrowing the list, based on eligibility, to 200 applicants. Finalists will be chosen randomly from all of the demographics and geographic areas represented in Michigan. The restrictions barring an individual from becoming a member of the Commission include if the person is:

  • An employee of the state legislature,

  • An employee of an elected official, lobbyist, or candidate,

  • An elected official of any public office, or

  • An immediate family member to any disqualified person.

Each member will serve a 1 to 2 year term, and the Commission will re-form every ten years after the U.S Census.

Public Hearings and Voter Input

One of the major criticisms of the current process of drawing election maps is that ordinary, independent citizens are excluded. Whose input is considered important and influences the final versions of district maps? The answer is simple: history shows that elected officials, political stakeholders, special interests, and lobbyists are the redistricting decision makers when redistricting is controlled by the legislature. It is important that the public has input in order to acknowledge how communities want to be represented.

The Commission will be representative of all the people of Michigan, and host public hearings during and after the process of drafting the new maps. The Commission must hold a minimum of 10 public hearings before members can even start drafting district maps. After drafting the first version of a district map, the map and supporting data is required to be released to the public. Through public hearings and public recommendations, the Commission will honor the transparency of the process and keep all meetings open for public attendance.

Implementing Redistricting Maps

The Commission must approve and adopt the final redistricting plans by November of the year following the census (e.g. 2021). The final maps will be adopted by a simple majority vote of the Commission, meaning 7 members must vote yes. This process contains additional safeguards to ensure unfair partisan gerrymanders will not return. For example, the seven-person majority must include at least 2 members of each party and 2 members who belong to neither party in order to prevent one party from teaming up with some non-affiliated members to push through a map that favors one party. If the members can’t agree on a map with a simple vote, they will use ranked-choice voting to determine the winning map. If that still doesn’t result in consensus, the Secretary of State will randomly choose the final map from the different options.

What You Can Do

Local Indivisibles have joined with Voters not Politicians campaign across Michigan to support Proposal 2.

To find your local Indivisible group, visit https://indivisible.org/groups.

Sign up here to text bank and help get out the vote to end gerrymandering in Michigan.

Additional Resources