In Michigan, when it comes to representative voter districts, the mitten does not fit. The guilty parties are politicians, lobbyists, special interest groups, and others who are in charge of keeping Michigan’s current process for drawing legislative district boundaries as is. They are guilty of manipulation for the sole purpose of maintaining political power with predetermined election outcomes.
It is true that our voting districts are designed to physically “fit” inside our unique mitten shape, however, they don’t represent the thread of Michigan’s communities where every vote should be counted. Our gerrymandered districts are not fair representations of voters, are not designed by people independent of political bias, and are not drawn by a process that is transparent and easily accessed by the public.
What would it be like if our districts were drawn by a process that is Fair, Independent, and Transparent – or FIT? Those criteria guided the ordinary citizen volunteers who crafted a proposed amendment to Michigan’s Constitution, changing the way our legislative districts are drawn.
Why should Michigan amend its constitution to change the current system? Many argue that the party in charge should draw the lines because, “That’s politics,” or, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” The political party with the most seats in the state legislature when the population census is taken has the authority to shape the districts, and their primary goal is to make sure their party will get the most seats in the next election. That means that they can draw the boundaries in whatever shape favors their likely voters, a practice called gerrymandering. It’s a trusted practice for the establishment elite, but it’s not true to the voters in the state.
So why is the proposed constitutional amendment a better way? How is the proposed system more Fair, more Independent, and more Transparent than the current system? How is it more FIT for Michigan voters than what we now have?
Current versus Proposed Constitutional Change
Who Draws the Maps?
Currently, maps are drawn by the political power in charge the year following the U.S. Census. That means that instead of voters choosing their politicians, politicians are empowered to choose their voters. Establishment elites work with lobbyists and special interest groups to draw strategic maps that are agreed upon behind closed doors. The result of this practice often leads to odd shaped districts seen on voter maps.
The proposed amendment ensures fairness by giving a balance of common voters representation on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) and enforces independence by disallowing political insiders among its 13 members while appointing equal numbers of citizens who identify with the two major parties as well as 5 citizens who don’t align with either major party. The commission is independent from the power-motivated legislature. While the current method is shrouded in secrecy, the makeup of the proposed commission and their workings are clearly stated and made public to assure transparency of the process.
How are Maps Drawn?
Fairness is embedded in the proposed ICRC by demanding that seven well-defined criteria be followed. In addition to stipulations and priorities of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, districts must:
- Be geographically contiguous,
- Reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest,
- Not provide disproportionate advantage to any political party,
- Not favor or disfavor an incumbent elected official or a candidate,
- Reflect consideration of County, City, and Township boundaries, and
- Be reasonably compact.
Transparency is guaranteed because the makeup and rules governing the procedures of the ICRC are publicly available and reports proving compliance with these restrictions must be submitted for public review.
In the current process, the legislature is required only to draw equal population districts following the federal Voting Rights Act but no other standards are enforceable and no evidence or demonstration of compliance must be made public.
How is the Public Involved?
Currently, the legislature makes an effort to avoid public involvement and keep voters in the dark. Committee hearings are largely for show and no public review is required to review finished maps. In addition to unfairness to the voter, the near secrecy of the current process opens opportunities for political groups and corporations to fill the void.
Fairness, Independence, and Transparency are built into the adoption of the proposed districts by requiring the ICRC to hold at least ten public hearings before maps are drawn and five hearings afterward to explain the proposed maps. They must also publish material reports, reference material, and programming data used to produce and test a map. Important to the ICRC’s independence is that they are banned from having private conversations with lobbyists and other people who do not serve of the commission.
Who Approves the Maps?
The new law will require the majority of the ICRC to approve the maps with at least two Democrats, two Republicans, and two who are not aligned to either party voting in favor. This supermajority method will help to ensure the integrity of the commission.
Michiganders deserve a redistricting process that is FIT for our state. An Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will give us a FIT process that is more fair, independent, and transparent and will put the power back in the hands of the people.
Are you ready for a FIT Michigan? 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 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.