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.