Can eleven cents create a fair, transparent, and responsive government?
The issue of government spending can be politically divisive. But Voters Not Politicians isn’t weighing in on that debate. The beauty of our non-partisan plan to reform gerrymandering, or partisan redistricting, in Michigan is that all of us will benefit from a more transparent redistricting process.
How? It’s simple: how our elections are decided determines how every single dime of taxpayer money is spent. If elections are determined before the first vote is even cast, and politicians don’t have to earn our votes, then those politicians are free to serve special interests and their campaign donors instead of we, the people.
According to a 2017 study at the New York University of Law, Michigan is one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country. There’s no question that we need change. States have to redistrict every decade to adjust for moving populations depending on new census numbers. We want to take politics out of the process and end partisan redistricting that allows whichever party is in charge at the time of the census to manipulate our districts.
As important as clean, fair elections are, it only makes sense that voters will wonder how much change will cost.
So How Much Will it Cost?
To reform gerrymandering in Michigan, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will have its own budget equal to 25% of the Secretary of State’s budget. However, that cost will only apply to years when the commission is at work — maybe two or three years every decade. This budget enables the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw new, fair voting districts every ten years when new U.S. census data is available. Plus, the Commission's budget is subject to state audit and any funds not used to draw the new sets of maps are returned back to the state.
Say the commission is active for two years out every decade. The cost for each of the 9.9 million Michiganders would average out to about eleven cents per year. When the State of Michigan will have a $56.5 billion annual budget for 2018, a dime and a penny per Michigander per year is a small price to pay for transparency in politics, and for politicians who answer to the people.
Heck, we’re already paying the politicians we’ve got who don’t answer to us. In the long run, amending our state constitution to protect our democracy from partisan redistricting will open the Commission to get feedback from Michiganders across the state, and help us elect officials who will help to curb government waste. It will also save us money to reform partisan redistricting rather than waiting to have the issue addressed by the Supreme Court - a very expensive and time-consuming process.
The lack of transparency in the current system leaves us vulnerable to wasteful spending in Lansing and Washington, D.C. Our proposal is careful to consider costs for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Our expenditure estimates were made by talking to other states with independent commissions and determining what was realistic for travel, administrative, consultant, and other process charges. Article IV, Section 5-6 of our proposed amendment to Michigan’s constitution (it’s on page 3 here) reads:
“The legislature shall appropriate funds sufficient to compensate the Commissioners and to enable the Commission to carry out its functions, operations and activities, which activities include retaining independent, nonpartisan subject-matter experts and legal counsel, conducting hearings, publishing notices and maintaining a record of the Commission’s proceedings, and any other activity necessary for the Commission to conduct its business. At an amount equal to not less than 25 percent of the General Fund/General Purpose budget for the Secretary of State for that fiscal year.”
You know how we keep talking about transparency? The Commission will furnish expenditure reports yearly to the governor and legislature and be subject to an audit every year, too. No more mysterious spending with taxpayer money, and members of the Commission can’t accept gifts with a worth over $20. A process that’s transparent and public will keep expenses out in the open, keeping the Commissioners accountable for their spending.
How much do politicians and lobbyists currently spend to draw the lines in their favor? We have no idea. The process – and how much they spend on it – is done completely behind closed doors.
Eleven cents is a pretty good exchange for a fair and transparent system, especially when you consider the fact that we have no idea how much the current process truly costs, or what criteria are used in the programs that draw the maps. If you’re worried about the cost of reforming gerrymandering in Michigan, a dime and a penny per year should put your concerns at ease. Plus if the commission doesn’t use your penny, it’s put back into the pot. It’s better than using our tax dollars to fund the current process where politicians choose their voters, instead of the other way around.
If you agree that it's time for an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw Michigan's election maps, here's how you can get involved:
Save the Date // save the date and vote YES for an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in the November 6 2018 election!
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 // we are recruiting volunteers to help us spread the word in 2018 to help us end gerrymandering in Michigan! 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.