This November, Michiganders will vote to amend our constitution to create a fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process. The proposed policy will establish an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission comprised of ordinary voters. But who wrote the proposed policy, and how?
Voice of Michiganders
The policy development, much like the campaign, was a voter-led, volunteer-driven effort. From day one, Voters Not Politicians aimed to be an initiative for and by the people, starting with drafting the solution to partisan gerrymandering. To understand how best to end gerrymandering in Michigan, we first met with thousands of Michiganders across the state and asked them what the solution should look like. In 33 days, Voters Not Politicians held 33 town halls from Marquette to Monroe. After each town hall, a survey was sent to all participants to gather their input. Voters Not Politicians collected feedback from more than 1,000 Michiganders that was used during the policy development process.
87% of survey respondents said that current lawmakers should not be able to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
95% of respondents said that lobbyists should not be able to serve either. This feedback was compiled and incorporated into the policy development process to ensure our policy ended gerrymandering in a way that Michiganders could get behind!
Stakeholder and expert guidance
Voters Not Politicians also worked closely over a span of several months with community groups and national, state, and local advocacy groups to understand the viewpoints of diverse stakeholders and the best reform practices that have been employed by other states. The policy development team also consulted with non-partisan redistricting policy experts such as The Brennan Center for guidance on the leading research on redistricting reform. These conversations with Michiganders, advocates, and experts directly informed the policy proposal, for a final product that was crafted by the people of the state and customized for Michigan’s needs.
The Policy Committee
At the heart of all of the formative research were Voters Not Politicians volunteer policy chairs, professor Nancy Wang - an Environmental Law professor from the University of Michigan - and Coby MacMaster, who has an education and background in public service. Nancy and Coby, who didn’t know each other before the campaign, developed a plan to include any Michigander who wanted to help draft a solution. As the original chairs of the Voters Not Politicians Policy Committee, they headed a diverse team ranging from attorneys, university professors, retired Michigan judges and experts in Michigan policy and governance; to nurses, occupational therapists, a birthing doula and a veterinarian.
“When we set out to create the policy, we wanted to make sure we created something that was by and for the people of Michigan. I am truly proud to say that we did just that by not only opening the policy committee to anyone who wanted to participate, but by also reaching out to Michiganders across the state to ask them what they wanted to see in the solution,” says Wang.
Given the diverse group, the conversation and the policy benefited from expert guidance on policy needs and constitutional language; but also from novel ideas and input from people new to the process and arena.
Wang was encouraged by the number of Michiganders ready and willing to pitch in: “We found that voters all across the state were eager to get involved; they wanted to wrestle with these issues and find a nonpartisan solution that would finally end gerrymandering in our state.”
Why We Love Our Policy
Those early volunteers did their research. One size does not fit all in redistricting reform, and the policy team spent countless hours researching the most important elements that we would need to end gerrymandering in Michigan. They looked to other states that have recently tackled redistricting reform like Idaho, Arizona, and California, to name a few. That research, plus the feedback gathered from the Town Halls, produced a constitutional amendment for and by the people of Michigan. The final product is an excellent policy that Michiganders can be proud of and that is F-I-T for Michigan - Fair, Impartial, and Transparent.
> Fair. Voters - not lobbyists and politicians - will draw election maps that cannot give one party or candidate a disproportionate advantage. People with the worst conflict of interest – politicians, lobbyists, and paid consultants – are banned from serving on the Commission.
> Impartial. Maps will be drawn through compromise by voters from across the political spectrum and must follow strict criteria. The Commission will be made up of 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 5 voters who don’t affiliate with either party. Maps must be approved by 2 Commissioners from each group. The Commission has the capability and funds to hire experts, and will draw the maps with input from Michiganders about what works best for their communities.
> Transparent. A key tenet of the policy is that Michiganders will be able to see, understand, and participate in every stage of the process. The redistricting process will happen in open and public meetings with input from Michiganders, not behind closed doors (like the current process that shuts out community voices). Everything used to draw the maps - including the data, computer algorithms, and software - must be shared publicly. Commissioners will hold 10 public hearings across the state before the maps are drawn, and then 5 additional public hearings to show which factors were used in the final set of maps, to gather feedback before the final vote.
And the best part of the policy? Strength. The policy touches each piece of Michigan’s Constitution that addresses the current redistricting process to ensure it’s robust and can withstand any attempts of partisan influence or manipulation . The policy will only address redistricting and will not open the Constitution to other amendments or initiate a constitutional convention.
Voters Not Politicians also made sure that the policy could not be vetoed by the governor or be reversed by the legislature by pursuing a ballot initiative. A constitutional amendment requires more signatures - 315,654 to be exact - but it wasn’t an issue for the army of volunteer circulators who collected more than 425,000 signatures from Michiganders last fall. Our statewide effort gathered signatures in each one of Michigan’s 83 counties showing that Michiganders across the mitten support an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission!
A Perfect FIT
The new redistricting policy was created with input from thousands of Michiganders. It is the product of months of hard work from experts on redistricting policy and Michigan governance, and of diverse volunteer Michiganders working all over the state. The piece of legislation that has come from this process is fair, impartial, transparent, and tailored specifically for us. It is a shining example of our democratic process -- and it perfectly FITs the mitten.
The full text of our proposed policy is public and available to view here.
If you agree that it’s time we draw the line, here’s how you can help:
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 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.