On November 6, 2018, 61% of Michigan voters from across the state and across the political spectrum passed Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment to put the power to draw our election district maps in the hands of the voters — not politicians.
Redistricting before the amendment
Before the redistricting reform amendment passed, the redistricting process in Michigan was rigged in favor of special interests.
Why? Because politicians and lobbyists met behind closed doors to draw Michigan’s election district maps to benefit themselves, not the voters. It’s called gerrymandering, and Michigan is currently home to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, like the ones below:
Politicians met behind closed doors with lobbyists and highly paid consultants and used big data and advanced computer algorithms to pick the groups of voters most likely to help their party. This allowed politicians to manipulate elections to give them and their party an unfair advantage for the next decade of elections.
How the amendment changes redistricting in Michigan
Michigan voters exercised their right of direct democracy and put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 general election ballot, known as Proposal 2. Proposal 2 put the power to draw election district maps in the hands of voters and created a fair, impartial, and transparent process.
The amendment clearly defines who can participate in future redistricting processes, how the maps are drawn, and when the maps are drawn.
Who draws the maps?
The redistricting reform amendment created an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that would be tasked to draw Michigan’s state Senate, state House, and Congressional election district maps every 10 years using Census data.
To prevent one political party from controlling the process, the amendment requires that the Commission be made up of “buckets” of 4 Democrat* voters, 4 Republican* voters, and 5 voters who affiliate with neither of those parties. Commissioners in each of these buckets must agree to adopt the final maps.
All registered voters in Michigan are eligible to apply to serve on the Commission unless in the past 6 years, the person has been a:
✘ candidate or elected official of a partisan office
✘ leader or official of a political party
✘ consultant or employee of a politician or PAC
✘ employee of the legislature or political appointee
✘ registered lobbyist agent or employee of a registered lobbyist agent
✘ immediate family member of any of the above
The amendment disqualifies these individuals from serving on the Commission because they are most likely to have a conflict of interest when it comes to drawing Michigan’s election district maps. However, the amendment includes that these individuals can still participate in the redistricting process by offering testimony in person or in writing.
* or the two political parties with the largest representation in the legislature
How are the maps drawn?
The amendment establishes a set of strict, ranked criteria that the Commission must follow when drawing the maps. The Commission must explain in a report how the maps it adopts meet the criteria in the amendment.
The maps must:
- Follow all federal requirements, including the Voting Rights Act (VRA)
- Be contiguous
- Respect communities of interest
- Not favor any party or incumbent
- Follow county, city, township lines
- Be compact
For the Commission’s maps to “respect communities of interest” as required by the amendment, the Commission must consider public input about (1) what interests citizens feel bind them together with others — whether it be economic, historical, ethnic, or other interests — and (2) where the boundaries of these “communities of interest” are.
The Commission will gather this input in a series of public hearings the Commission is required to hold in different parts of the state. The Commission must hold at least 10 public hearings across the state before it begins drawing maps and at least another five public hearings across the state to present its draft maps before it adopts them. The public may submit their own maps to the Commission for consideration.
All of the Commission’s redistricting work must be done in public. Everything the Commission uses during its meetings and deliberations must be made publicly available. This includes reference documents, data, software used to draw maps, identity of consultants and staff, and any other information relating to the Commission’s work.
The Commission has the power to make its own rules and hire staff and experts, such as map-drawing experts, demographers and statisticians. The state government is required to fund the Commission.
To adopt election district maps, a majority of the Commissioners (7 out of the 13) must agree, and that majority must include at least 2 commissioners from each bucket (Democrat, Republican, and unaffiliated).