Fixing the lines

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Illustration by Tamara Turner

Proposal 2 of Michigan ballot plans to end gerrymandering

by Alexis Tucker, Managing Editor

“After the last election, a family got together at Thanksgiving and had a normal political fight,” said Sue Ahrenhold, Outreach Coordinator. “They agreed that voters felt unheard.”

That family was Katie Fahey’s family. Katie Fahey is executive director of Voters Not Politicians, the group responsible for proposal two to change the way the voting districts are drawn.

Gerrymandering is a term referring to the unfair ways politicians draw maps to get elected. The maps are drawn every 10 years based on the census, which the next census will be in 2020. There are several techniques used such as packing, stacking and cracking. Packing is when the majority of one party is put into one district, so their power is diminished. Cracking is when small amounts of one party is put into a district with a majority of the other party. The minority party is put into several districts where the majority party will win all of those districts. Stacking is the opposite of Cracking as in the small party draws the lines in a way to win them a disproportionate number of districts. The Senate’s and the House of Representatives’ districts are drawn separately, but the proportions are the same. In Michigan, redistricting had to be done by a commission until it was struck from the Constitution in 1982, and now, redistricting is done by the state Legislature.

“It is not just important for Michigan today, but for Michigan [in the] future,” said Ahrenhold.

Voters Not Politicians went canvassing to collect the signatures needed to be put on the ballot. The campaign needed 315,654 signatures in 180 days to be considered on the ballot, and they got close to 450,000 in 120 days. Over the summer, Voters Not Politicians had to go through a lawsuit from a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan Supreme Court sided with Voters Not Politicians. Proposal two was approved for the election in September.

The new ballot proposal by Voters Not Politicians will change the Michigan Constitution back to an independent commission, but there are limitations. There will be a commission made up of 13 randomly selected voters, and they will be paid for their time. Eight of those 13 voters must from the two major parties, meaning four from each party, and the other five voters must be independents or unaffiliated. Politicians or lobbyists and their families are not allowed to serve on this commission. While redistricting is ongoing, the commission must have public meetings across the state at least 10 times before choosing the new map. If the proposal were to pass, the first commission would come after the 2020 census.

The ballot language is as follows:

“A PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO ESTABLISH A COMMISSION OF CITIZENS WITH EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY TO ADOPT DISTRICT BOUNDARIES FOR THE MICHIGAN SENATE, MICHIGAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND U.S. CONGRESS, EVERY 10 YEARS”

This proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Create a commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected by the Secretary of State:
    • 4 each who self-identify as affiliated with the 2 major political parties; and
    • 5 who self-identify as unaffiliated with major political parties.
  • Prohibit partisan officeholders and candidates, their employees, certain relatives, and lobbyists from serving as commissioners.
  • Establish new redistricting criteria including geographically compact and contiguous districts of equal population, reflecting Michigan’s diverse population and communities of interest. Districts shall not provide disproportionate advantage to political parties or candidates.
  • Require an appropriation of funds for commission operations and commissioner compensation.”