Every ten years, after the completion of the United States Census, new state legislative and congressional districts are created to reflect the new census data. In Michigan, this has been done by the Legislature and the Governor. Voters Not Politicians Ballot Committee (VNP) is proposing to amend Michigan’s Constitution to change this. The VNP proposal would take the power of redistricting away from the partisan politicians in the Legislature and Governor, and transfer this power to an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission would consist of 13 registered Michigan voters who are randomly selected from people who apply. The Commission is designed so that all Michigan voters are represented, as fully as possible, in the process of drawing our districts. The final breakdown of the 13 members will consist of: four Republicans*, four Democrats*, and five independent members who affiliate with no party or a third-party.
Why is this necessary? Voting districts all over the country have been shifted and stretched by politicians for their own benefit over the years. Michigan is no exception. In fact, according to studies by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice and Bridge Michigan, Michigan has the some of the most “gerrymandered” districts in the country. Nationwide, the situation is so bad that a conservative magazine, Business Insider, commented that it is often difficult for voters to tell the difference between Rorschach inkblots and voting district maps.When politicians are in charge of redistricting, it leads to biased voting maps and rigs our elections. The members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will represent ordinary Michigan citizens, and protect Michigan from partisan gerrymandering.
We believe that an independent, citizen-led commission would protect Michigan’s districts from any more politically-motivated redistricting (also known as partisan gerrymandering). Putting a politically diverse group of citizens in charge will restore reason and balance to voting maps. Michigan’s districts have been distorted to give those in power an unfair advantage, resulting in uncompetitive elections where politicians have the freedom to ignore their constituents.
The Process For Choosing Commissioners
Under VNP’s proposal, Michiganders could voluntarily serve on the Commission through one of two channels. First, there will be an open application process, where any registered voter in Michigan who is interested may apply. At the same time, the Secretary of State will randomly mail a minimum of 10,000 registered Michigan voters and invite them to apply. Our policy committee explains why this two-pronged approach is important below:
“By randomly selecting a pool of eligible voters in Michigan and inviting the general public to apply, we can truly say that every voter in Michigan, regardless of his or her political experience, profession, or education, has the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the redistricting process.”
To be eligible to serve on the Commission, applicants must meet the following criteria.
- Submit a completed application, resume, and two supporting letters of recommendation.
- Be a registered voter in Michigan.
- Identify the party (if any) that they affiliate themselves with, to ensure a balanced commission.
- Not be, or be closely related to, a current or former (in the past 6 years) political insider, including a candidate for partisan office, elected official to a partisan office, registered lobbyist, and party officer.
- Not be otherwise disqualified from office.
Additionally, Commissioners will be ineligible to hold a partisan elective office in Michigan for five years after serving on the Commission. This includes offices at the state, county, city, village, or township level.
All applicants who fit the criteria and who are not disqualified will go into a general pool - 50% from open public applications and 50% from randomly mailed invitations. Each application will be weighted (using widely accepted statistical weighting methods) to ensure that this pool of 200 applicants mirrors the geographic and demographic makeup of the state as closely as possible. The final Commission of 13 Michigan voters will be randomly selected from the pool - 4 Republicans*, 4 Democrats*, and 5 who affiliate with neither party.
*Or the two parties who receive the most votes in the previous election’s governor race.
We believe this diverse commission, working together and supplied with all the information and tools they need, will do a better job at protecting Michigan’s voting districts from bias and partisan gerrymandering.
Summing Up, and Getting Involved
Since March 2017 the Voters Not Politicians team has held more than 40 town halls and other events all over the state. We’ve heard from and considered voters’ concerns from over 30 locations around the state, including Lansing, Monroe, Detroit, Muskegon, Marquette, and many others. We have taken into account all of this input in developing our proposal.
A commission of 13 Michigan voters of varied politics who opt-in, randomly selected by the Secretary of State in a fair and transparent process, will mean no single party is in charge – which will make your vote count and your voice heard.
If you agree that it’s time for a change, 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.