December 17, 2018

Contact: David Waymire



Former AG Mike Cox ruling adds to information showing redistricting bill is unconstitutional


Additional research is showing new reasons why the Michigan Legislature should drop Senate Bill 1254, an unconstitutional, unnecessary and unethical bill introduced to allow politicians to try to claw back control of gerrymandering after voters removed their authority on Nov. 6.


The Voters Not Politicians redistricting reform ballot proposal was approved by 61 percent of the voters, setting up a new independent citizens redistricting commission. The new constitutional provisions include specific language stating that it is “self-executing” and the new independent citizens redistricting commission now in the constitution is not subject to the control or approval of the Legislature.


A 2005 ruling by then-Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, in a similar effort by the Legislature to interfere into constitutional powers, found that a self-executing provision of the Michigan Constitution cannot be changed by the Legislature.


The research by the Honigman law firm that discovered this on-point ruling also turned up 111 sections of the Michigan Constitution that DO provide the Legislature authority to enact implementing legislation.


“Unlike any of these constitutional provisions, in adopting this constitutional amendment, the voters elected to provide the Legislature no authority to enact implementing legislation,” the new Honigman memo on the unconstitutionality of SB 1254 says. “The action of the voters, in fact does the opposite, and prohibits the Legislature from altering or abrogating the power of the commission in any manner whatsoever. The will of the voters is clear and enforceable with respect to the Legislature’s authority to implement legislation related to this new constitutional language.”


SB 1254 would allow the Legislature to determine how commission members are selected and who can work for the commission, contrary to the plain language of the constitutional amendment.


The Cox ruling came when he was asked whether a new law in 2005 allowing members to serve for six years was constitutional. Cox noted that the state’s 1963 Constitution clearly states in Article 5, Section 6 that no terms of office shall exceed four years unless otherwise authorized by the Constitution.


“This provision of the Constitution is self-executing. It operates on its own to invalidate the terms of office of enlarged or newly created boards and commissions to the extent those terms exceed four years and requires no legislation to implement this limitation,” the Cox opinion states.


“Similarly, the new redistricting reform provisions of the constitution are self-executing – and laws to interfere with the independent citizens redistricting commission are unconstitutional,” said Nancy Wang, president of Voters Not Politicians. “We urge the Legislature to drop consideration of this bill, and should it reach his desk, Gov. Rick Snyder to veto it, to save taxpayers wasted legal expenditures when this unconstitutional effort to interfere with the commission’s independence is successfully challenged in court.”


The legislation is pending in the House Elections Committee after the Michigan Senate on a party-line vote moved it to the House on Dec. 5.


Click here to read the Honigman memo.




Voters Not Politicians is the nonpartisan, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to implementing the new state constitutional amendment to end partisan gerrymandering. Learn more at