Look at a map of the political districts in Michigan and you’ll find some irregular shapes, such as the skinny, corkscrew-shaped Fourth state Senate District or the 76th state House District, which wraps around Grand Rapids. Gerrymandering in Michigan has been cited as being be among the nation’s worst, but this year voters have a chance to voice their opinions on the issue. Proposal 2, an initiative from the group “Voters not Politicians,” would amend the Michigan Constitution to establish an independent commission of citizens responsible for redrawing district lines, if adopted.
The proposed redistricting commission would consist of 13 citizens — four Republican-affiliated, four Democratic-affiliated and five Independent — chosen by the Secretary of State from completed applications. To apply, citizens must meet a few guidelines, including the stipulation that they not have run for nor held a local, state or national office in the last six years or have family that have done so. The commission, with oversight by the Secretary of State, will meet every 10 years to decide how political districts should be drawn. While the Secretary of State is partisan, the politically-balanced commission can only improve Michigan’s severe gerrymandering problem. Currently, the party in power has the right to redistrict the state and often does so in a way that benefits its own party — a clear conflict of interest given that the district lines could determine a politician’s success at reelection. Proposal 2 is a step in the right direction to win the value of the vote back to the citizens from the politicians.
A handful of other states have adopted a version of the redistricting commission outlined in Proposal 2, the closest being California’s independent, non-partisan commission that has had variable success. In addition, Arizona also employs an independent redistricting committee that has been successful in drawing fairer political state maps. Whether the redistricting commission works in Michigan or not, it cannot cause much harm to the dismal state of Michigan’s political districts. Something needs to change in order to solve the extreme problem of gerrymandering in Michigan, and we hope that Proposal 2 is the change that we need. Therefore, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board endorses voting “yes” on Proposal 2 to bring the vote back to the voters.
As Nov. 6 quickly approaches, readers should also be cognizant of Proposal 3 on the Michigan ballot, an initiative from “Promote the Vote.” If adopted, citizens qualified to vote in Michigan would automatically become registered to vote “when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines.” They’d also be able to “simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the 2-week period prior to an election, up to and including Election Day.” Furthermore, one would be newly able to obtain an absentee ballot without providing a reason and to cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular political party when voting in a partisan general election.
As of 2016, Michigan is ranked 41st out of 50 in terms of electoral integrity (that is, “adherence to standards of appropriate conduct during the pre-election period, the campaign, polling day and election aftermath.”) Proposal 3 wouldn’t implement changes radically different from those found in other states, but it would bring Michigan up to par with states performing at the higher end of the scale. As with any ballot initiative, there’s a question of whether legislation should be done through the state House of Representatives and state Senate or immediately enshrined in the State Constitution — in the case of Proposal 3, however, the changes are uncontroversial, have been successful in other states and have the best chance of implementation through the initiative process. Therefore, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board supports Proposal 3 this Tuesday.