A grassroots group is hoping to improve the process of drawing district lines for Michigan’s state Legislature and Congressional seats by severing it from anyone with political influence.
Voters Not Politicians is aiming to amend the state Constitution with a ballot petition that would put in place an 13-member commission every 10 years to redraw the lines of state House, state Senate and Congressional districts that reflect changes in population based on U.S. Census data.
Currently, the redistricting process in Michigan is conducted by the state Legislature, which has been majority Republican in recent redistricting years. A nationwide analysis of 2016 election data by the Associated Press found battleground states such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia — all of which had their districts drawn by Republican-led legislatures — had significant Republican advantages in state House and Congressional races.
The proposed language would shift that decisionmaking process to the 13-member commission, which would consist of five independent members, four self-declared Democrats and four self-declared Republicans. Elected officials, candidates, lobbyists and political consultants or staffers — as well as family members of politicians or other insiders — would be barred from participating within six years of their politically-affiliated position.
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The commissioners would be selected randomly from a pool of registered voters who submitted applications to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would be required to circulate commissioner applications to 10,000 registered Michigan voters at random from various regions of the state.
Final maps for congressional and state House and Senate lines would require majority approval and support from at least two Republicans, two Democrats and two independents on the commission.
Katie Fahey, president and treasurer of Voters Not Politicians, said an independent redistricting commission would make redistricting more fair and transparent to members of the public, as well as protect against gerrymandered districts.
“This process doesn’t have to be political,” she said. “At the end of the day, these political maps cannot favor one party over the other.”
Fahey said the group did substantial research of how other states with independent commissions, such as Arizona and California, operate before rolling out the proposal for Michigan. Members of Voters Not Politicians also toured the state and got feedback from thousands of residents in town halls and forums, she said.
The group is seeking form approval from the Board of State Canvassers, an optional review from the state petition drives can undergo to ensure the proposal is legally sound. Because the group is proposing a constitutional amendment, all sections Voters Not Politicians hopes to change must be listed in the petition.
Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams said Friday Voters Not Politicians submitted a revised petition form and have been asked to correct a few items, and said the review regarding Constitutional alter and abrogation issues is ongoing.
To be on the November 2018 ballot, Voters Not Politicians has to collect more than 315,000 valid signatures.
According to campaign finance data from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, the group has raised about $122,000 so far this year, with a little more than $71,000 raised in the last quarter. Voters Not Politicians has $93,877 in cash on hand.
Read the current proposed language for the ballot proposal on the Voters Not Politicians website.
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