Proposal regarding gerrymandering to appear on Michigan's general election ballot

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 4:33pm

This November, Michigan voters will decide the fate of Proposal 2, a citizen-initiated proposition to move the power of creating legislative districts from the state House of Representatives to an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

This November, Michigan voters will decide the fate of Proposal 2, a citizen-initiated proposition to move the power of creating legislative districts from the state House of Representatives to an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

This November, Michigan voters will decide the fate of Proposal 2, a citizen-initiated proposition to move the power of creating legislative districts from the state House of Representatives to an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The proposal aims to end the practice of “gerrymandering,” or strategically creating districts to gain a partisan advantage. The commission will be comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and five Independents or members of third-parties. Seven votes – including two Democrats, two Republicans and two Independents – are necessary for changing district lines. 

Grassroots organizations have been pushing for this ballot proposal for years, especially after a test by Bridge Magazine that found GOP candidates succeed in Michigan despite relatively equal support for both parties because of gerrymandered districts. In 2017, The Daily interviewed Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), one of the supporters of the proposal, regarding his efforts to get the proposal into legislation.

“It's very complicated, and that's by design,” Moss said. “We wanted to make sure that two people couldn’t collude and wind up on the commission together. Anyone who served as a partisan official, worked for a partisan official, worked for a political party or was a major donor to a party or candidate.”

The proposal has received support from Democrats throughout the state. Public Policy junior Katie Kelly, the communications director of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats, was supportive of the idea. She believes regardless of partisan disagreements, a commission will generation more just elections. 

“The current lines in Michigan are heavily skewed towards the Republican party and meant to lessen the influence that minority, female and young voters have in elections,” Kelly said. “In other states, the opposite is true. Regardless of the skew, we support this proposal because it would help to guarantee fair elections and allow all people to have a voice in their representation.”

However, Kelly believes Democrats will face strong opposition on the issue, especially because Republicans heavily impacted by the passage of Proposal 2.

“Even though this proposal would create an even playing field for all candidates, Republicans will be pushing to keep the lines drawn the way they are now,” Kelly said. “Republicans stand to lose the most if the proposal is adopted, so I imagine there will be a lot of opposition messaging about the proposal being too complicated and saying that the commission is an undemocratic process, but neither of those are true. Michiganders are smart enough to know that when Republicans and Democrats get an almost equal amount of votes, there shouldn’t be such a skewed majority.”

Republicans have indeed voiced their disapproval of Proposal 2. LSA Sophomore Dylan Berger, president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, believes an appointed citizen commission would hurt the state of democracy within Michigan.

“Currently, elected representatives of the people of Michigan work together to determine district lines,” Berger said. “If the people are unhappy with those lines, they have the ability to make their voice heard at the ballot box.  If this proposal passes, those drawing the lines would be unelected bureaucrats accountable to no one … this ballot proposal would make our state government less transparent and less accountable.”

Berger said he was surprised the proposal made it through the court system and onto the ballot, but believed Michiganders would ultimately disapprove of it.

“I thought the state Supreme Court would have struck this down when it came before them,” Berger said. “This ballot proposal seeks to fundamentally alters the government of Michigan. Something of that magnitude must be decided at a state constitutional convention. I do not think it will pass. The more the people of Michigan learn about this, the less likely they will be to support it.”

On campus, not all students know the details of Proposal 2, but many still have strong opinions about gerrymandering.

LSA freshman Eli Weaver believes gerrymandering is a practice both parties are guilty of, but said he feels the Republican Party has done more damage through gerrymandering.

“I’m anti-gerrymandering,” Weaver said. “I’d call myself independent, but I’m probably more liberal. I know both sides do it (gerrymander), but I think it’s a lot more detrimental when the Republicans do it. I think they do it a lot more to segregate minorities, especially in southern states like North Carolina.”

Proposal 2 will be decided upon on Nov. 6 during the 2018 midterm elections.