Gerrymander petition is grassroots democracy
A citizens group made headlines recently when it turned in petitions containing 425,000 signatures in hopes of getting on the ballot a constitutional amendment that will change the way political districts are drawn.
The change they propose is designed to combat gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts in a way that favors a particular political party – typically the one in power when redistricting occurs.
And with only 315,654 signatures necessary to meet state requirements, the group feels good about the issue making it onto the November 2018 ballot.
There is a lot to feel good about. Engaged citizens voluntarily coming together to elevate an issue to a statewide debate is a strong example of grassroots democracy.
“The people of Michigan are speaking loudly – they are tired of politicians, from both parties, and wealthy special interests who rig the system behind closed doors to benefit themselves,” said Katie Fahey, president of Voters Not Politicians, the organization behind the petition drive.
Under current law, legislative districts are redrawn following each national census – the most recent of which was in 2010. Both chambers of the Legislature, which is responsible for redistricting, were Republican-controlled in 2011 when lines were redrawn. Republican Rick Snyder was in his first year as governor.
Under Voters Not Politicians’ proposal, much of the politics would be removed or at the very least limited.
The constitutional amendment would establish a 13-member commission of citizens independent from the Legislature (or any other branch of government) to decide legislative districts. Among the members would be five independent voters along with four who identify as Republicans and four who identify as Democrats.
Elected officials, lobbyists and other political insiders would not be eligible to serve on the commission. In addition, public hearings would be held prior to approving proposed district maps by majority vote, with at least two votes from each of the three groups that make up the commission.
“The people of Michigan have come together to make it clear they want voters to choose their politicians, not the other way around,” Fahey said.
They deserve the opportunity to see if the rest of the state agrees – this proposal should absolutely be on the ballot on Nov. 6.
— Lansing State Journal