Memorandum 1150 | September 2018


The redistricting process affects the core components of a representative democracy. It determines what candidates people are able to vote for and who an elected representative represents. The term “gerrymandering” characterizes the eccentric boundaries of many legislative districts, drawn to unfairly privilege one party over another. Gerrymandering enables the creation of “safe” districts that allow candidates to appeal only to their party base. In this way, gerrymandering facilitates polarization. Gerrymandering also erodes public trust in the political process. When groups feel the system is designed to limit their voice, or prevent them from electing candidates, it can lead to citizen disengagement and weaken the representational aspect of our governmental system.

If Proposal 2018-2 passes, the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission would be created and responsible for redistricting starting in 2021; the legislature would be removed from the process. The commission members would be randomly selected from a pool of applicants and would be required to host a minimum of 10 public meetings before developing the plans. Requirements for district plans would be set in the constitution.

If Proposal 2018-2 is rejected, the legislature would continue to be responsible for redistricting. Guidelines would be set by the legislature, but could be modified by future legislatures through statutory changes. Michigan would continue to lack binding constitutional guidelines.

Major issues to consider: The proposal intends to prevent gerrymandering, or redistricting designed to change the electoral fate of a candidate or political party from happening. The current system leaves those decisions in the hands of politicians who can directly benefit from the redistricting process. Proposal 2018-2 would set criteria to guide how the commission would draw maps and places many requirements on the commission to increase the transparency of the redistricting process. The drawbacks are that the commissioners are not elected officials, instead they are selected at random, and can only be held accountable by other commissioners.

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4 Comments

    • The drawbacks are that the commissioners are not elected officials, instead they are selected at random, and can only be held accountable by other commissioners.

      The final statement is an opinion, not a fact. It is not necessarily a drawback to have non-elected citizens be responsible to the public and to one another rather than to the legislature. Many of us concerned about the everyday citizen’s role and voice in the current system see this as a positive step toward stronger citizen participation and influence. While selected at random, the people chosen will have had to express a willingness to serve, unlike jury duty. Still, when juries are chosen, the people rise to make the best decisions on criminal and civil cases day upon day across the United States. We have no reason to expect any less from those chosen and willing to serve on the Citizen’s Commission.

      Jan Wheelock
      September 11, 2018, @ 5:34 pm Reply
      • Hi Jan, thank you for taking the time to read our analysis and provide your feedback! We wanted to take a moment to respond with our thoughts.

        The drawback stems from a decline in the ability of citizens to hold the redistricting commission accountable relative to the current system. With the legislature responsible for the redistricting process, voters have the ability to raise concerns based on redistricting at the ballot box. While you are correct that it is not necessarily a drawback that those who are designing redistricting plans are citizens under the proposed commission, there are no mechanisms within the proposal that allow the public at large to act on a concern they have with commissioners.

        As for your comparison of the commission to jury selection, one significant difference is that members of a potential citizens redistricting commission will have at least some interests that can benefit from the outcome of the process. While juries are built to be impartial, that is not possible in the redistricting process because of the fundamental way that it affects our representative system. Because of this, and the fact that commissioners can only be removed via a vote of other commissioners or through a disqualification of their eligibility to be a commissioner, the proposal does limit accountability in the process. But you are correct that the magnitude of the drawback is subjective.

        Jordon Newton
        September 13, 2018, @ 2:08 pm Reply
    • Hmm … no love for the 3rd Major Party in Michigan, the Libertarians?

      Should just make all 15 seats non-partisan – why play favorites and enshrine a flawed two party system in our Constitution?

      Andy Evans
      October 9, 2018, @ 5:29 pm Reply
      • Hi Andy, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

        The original constitutional process had a provision that gave a third party an equal standing, but was only active if that party earned 25 percent of the statewide vote in a governor’s election. The definition used by Proposal 2 is representation in the legislature; but only two parties currently have any official elected.

        As it works, Proposal 2 would not shut out currently minor parties. First, the five “independent” commissioners must only be independent from the two major parties; they can be members of any third party represented in the state so long as they don’t also affiliate with a major party. Additionally, if a party other than the current Democrat and Republican parties were to become the largest or second largest party in the legislature, they would replace one of the current major parties.

        An issue with making 15 non-partisan seats is that it limits the ability to require consensus; the proposed process requires the two major parties, those with the most areas of disagreement, to come to a mutual decision with not only each other, but multiple individuals that do not favor either major party as well. As many have said about the proposal, everyone has some political interest; and having a commission that explicitly recognizes those interests and tries to counteract them is less likely to lead to a biased outcome than one that ignores partisan leanings. The current process allows for minor party representation by grouping off 5 seats for those not affiliated with the two major parties, while a 15 member commission, at least with current rates of representation, could shut out all other parties.

        Jordon Newton
        October 10, 2018, @ 3:53 pm Reply

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