One of the biggest faults of the current redistricting process is the lack of transparency or public participation. The state government is legally allowed to draw maps behind closed doors without any requirement for public input or oversight. This closed-door process allows politicians the freedom to manipulate and rig voting maps to give them the advantage in elections over the next decade. This allows politicians to choose their voters, instead of voters being able to choose their politicians.
Our Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) proposal would create a transparent and fair process for drawing election maps. The proposal was drafted carefully to remove political interference and to ensure high levels of fairness. You can read about how Commissioners are selected to equally and fairly represent the state of Michigan here.
Providing maximum transparency
The proposal provides for maximum transparency so that the voters can be assured that the ICRC is doing its job fairly and justly and with the best interests of the voters - not politicians - in mind. The Commission must conduct all of its business in open hearings that are open to the public. All proposed and adopted maps and any data used to develop them are public records. When the Commission adopts a map, it must issue a report explaining its reasons. Any Commissioner who disagrees with the decision may issue a dissenting report that is published with the Commission’s report.
Under VNP’s proposal, there will be no more maps drawn behind closed doors. Commissioners must conduct all of its business out in the open. They are not allowed to meet with any member of the public in private to discuss redistricting matters. To protect Commissioners from the influence of lobbyists or special interests, Commissioners are also prohibited from accepting gifts of $20 or more.
Allowing for Meaningful Public Participation
The proposal allows the public to meaningfully participate in every step of the redistricting process. Any registered Michigan voter may apply to serve on the Commission. Members of the public can also engage by attending one or more public hearings. The ICRC must hold a minimum of 10 public hearings throughout the state before it proposes any district maps. During these public hearings, the Commissioners will engage the public in the process of drawing voting maps and solicit community input about what communities of interest voters identify with and want represented in government. These hearings can begin before the census data is finalized. In order to maximize attendance by voters and to increase participation, public hearings must be scheduled 45 days ahead of time to give citizens advanced notice of the meeting. These public hearings must be open to all Michiganders and must be planned to encourage attendance and participation across the state, including the use of technology that would allow real-time, virtual participation and feedback during the hearings.
During the map drawing process, any member of the public may submit maps for consideration to the Commission. Those submissions are public records that are open to scrutiny and comment.
After the maps are proposed, the ICRC must hold an additional 5 public hearings throughout the state to review the maps and to take comments and feedback. During these public hearings, the ICRC will discuss the proposed maps along with all the supporting material that must be published for public record. These materials include reports, reference materials, and all data that was used to draw and test the maps. The ICRC must also submit the computer source code used to produce and test different maps to ensure that no political bias is interfering with the process.
As mentioned above, when the Commission adopts a map, it has to explain its decision. If a Commissioner disagrees with a decision, he or she may write his or her own report. These reports give the public a means of policing the Commission and ensuring that all adopted maps comply with the requirements outlined in the proposal.
Protecting the Independence of the Commission
In the past, the executive and legislative branches of the Michigan state government have interfered with other independent commissions in order to reintroduce their partisan bias and influence. The proposal includes Constitutional language to prevent those branches from using similar tactics to undermine the independence of the ICRC.
First, the Constitutional language requires the Legislature to fund the Commission at a level reasonable and necessary for the Commission to do its work, including retaining experts and consultants, and legal counsel to defend adopted maps. This prevents the Legislature from gutting the Commission using its appropriations power. Commissioners are able to sue over inadequate appropriations.
The Constitutional language also explicitly prohibits the Legislature and the Governor from changing, transferring, reorganizing, reassigning, or altering the Commission or the responsibilities of the Commissioners. The inclusion of this language was inspired by the Governor’s past manipulation of the Michigan Department of Education and the Civil Rights Commission.
Finally, the proposal specifies that in the case of deadlock, the Commission will adopt a map using a ranked choice procedure. This keeps redistricting in the hands of the Commission even where consensus is not possible, and out of the hands of the Michigan Supreme Court.
We believe that the voters of Michigan are more capable than politicians of working together to develop fair voting maps. By requiring transparency and allowing for meaningful public participation while protecting the independence of the commission, our policy will create a redistricting process where fair and logical maps are drawn. Removing political bias and influence from the current process will ensure that Michiganders’ voices are heard and that their votes count.
If you agree, it’s time to get involved and take action. Here’s how:
Sign the petition // Voters Not Politicians is in the process of collecting 315,654 valid signatures to get our policy on the November 2018 ballot. Click here to find an upcoming opportunity to sign the petition!
Donate // the politicians and special interests who benefit from the current system will spend millions defending and protecting their unfair advantage. We have to fight back, and that will include advertising and putting together hundreds of local events across Michigan to educate voters on their rights. Donate to Voters Not Politicians here.
Volunteer // help us spread the word and gather petition signatures! We are recruiting a field team of petition circulators that will help us spread the word and collect signatures this summer. If you are interested in being a part of this vital part of the process, please click here.
Stay educated // learn more about gerrymandering and how you can defeat it! Stay up to date on campaign updates and news by signing up for our newsletter here.