Currently, Michigan’s state legislature controls redistricting (the process of drawing congressional and state legislative districts), and only requires a simple majority vote in both houses. The Governor does have veto authority. The last time redistricting was done was in 2011, just after the 2010 census. Then the Governor, the state senate and the state house were all under control of the Republicans. Depending on the results of the 2020 census, we can expect another round of redistricting–sometimes called, ‘Gerrymandering.”
The political objective of redistricting, of course, is to redraw voting districts in a way that benefits one party over the other. Citizens have a right to feel like they are captive pawns in a game of chess played between republicans and democrats. Which district represents which citizens changes usually every ten years following the census. Why does this really matter to the average citizen? If you are a democrat or republican or likely to support one party over the other, the chances of success of the candidate of your choice in any election are weighted heavily towards the party in control.
Gerrymandering isn’t just applied to congressional and state legislative districts. Most states permit local units of governments to determine precinct or ward boundaries. This can be potentially harmful to Tribe’s citizens who may be spread among several precincts and may have the potential to determine electoral outcomes. In Wisconsin, a particular county purposefully realigned its districts to dilute the voting power of two neighboring Tribes. The county was concerned that together the two Tribe’s citizens could effectively sway a local election. The county redrew its district map splitting in half the districts containing significant Tribal citizens, who longer were able to vote for the same district representative. Michigan has about 100,000 eligible Indigenous voters, and while spread out across the state, redistricting has the potential to break up blocks of Tribal voters.
It is officially called Proposal 18-2 A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years.
If passed, Proposal 2 creates a 13 citizen commission composed of four Republicans, four Democrats and five who are not affiliated with either party. There will be a process for selecting the commissioners that eventually narrows down the list of citizens and the Secretary of State then randomly draws the names to make up the commission. The criteria for being a commissioner is as follows:
According to the proposal, each member must:
- be registered and eligible to vote in the state of Michigan.
- not currently or in the past six years have been a declared candidate or elected official of any federal, state, or local office; an officer or member of the governing body of a federal, state, or local political party; a paid consultant of any elected official, political candidate, or political action committee; an employee of the state legislature; or a registered lobbyist.
- not be a parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, or spouse to anyone specified in the above point.
The proposal also requires that anyone who serves on the Commission cannot hold a partisan elective office at any level in Michigan.
It is supposed to be a completely non-partisan process whereby the Secretary of State would mail out 100,000 random applications to registered voters, and continue thereafter to mail out applications until 30 qualified applicants from each of the two parties and 40 applicants from unaffiliated are received. The secretary would then submit the applicants to the state legislature where party leaders can strike out up to five persons from each of the pools. The Secretary then would randomly select the 13 commissioners from the remaining pool. The commissioners will be paid approximately $35,000 each during the redistricting process.
It would be nice to see a brown face among the 13. Another reason to make sure Tribal citizens are registered to vote.