Perhaps the most overlooked story of the November 2018 Michigan elections and the subsequent December lame duck session in the Legislature was the outrageous attempts by Republican lawmakers to brush aside voters’ wishes regarding several ballot proposals.
Somehow, the GOP has determined that the Republican-controlled state House and Senate can undermine the majority of Michigan voters by altering or challenging in court the initiatives that passed last November or previously received significant support through the constitutional process of a petition drive.
The biggest success at the ballot box, the proposal to end partisan gerrymandering, is now under attack, nine months later, by a group of Republican lawyers and special interest groups who claim that Proposal 2 is illegal.
Earlier today, the group that led the extraordinarily successful 2018 redistricting reform campaign, Voters Not Politicians, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit that seeks to block the voter-approved independent commission that will draw new election district boundaries after the 2020 Census.
The GOP court challenge claims that the voters’ decision — with 61 percent support for the proposal — to exclude family members of politicians, lobbyists and other partisan political operatives violates the U.S. Constitution.
“Voters made it loud and clear that they support a fair, impartial and transparent redistricting process to ensure that voters choose their politicians – not the other way around,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “This lawsuit is the latest attempt by the same politicians and special interests who tried to keep the redistricting reform amendment off the ballot, to undermine the voice of voters.”
The amendment to the state Constitution blocks membership on the bipartisan commission by those who in the last six years was a partisan candidate, elected official, political appointee, lobbyist, campaign consultant or official associated with a political party organization.
To prevent any shenanigans, with a mouthpiece serving on the commission, Proposal 2 also banned a parent, child or spouse of the excluded individuals from serving. Throughout the high-octane 2018 campaign for and against the proposal, Voters Not Politicians was vocal in promoting the ballot language that prevented partisan advocates from taking a seat on the 13-member redistricting commission.
The panel will consist of four Republican voters, four Democratic voters and five independents who are unaffiliated with the two political parties. The Secretary of State’s Office will begin accepting applications for the commission on Jan. 1, 2020. A lottery-style process will select the commissioners.
The legal action filed on July 30 is backed by the Fair Lines America Foundation, a nonprofit with ties to the National Republican Redistricting Trust. The suit was filed on behalf of 15 Michigan residents who would be excluded from serving on the commission under the new rules.
The group of Republicans protesting the new law, led by former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, objected to the ban on family members of politicians and political operatives from serving on the commission. Walker said in a statement that the law was “punishing the people of Michigan” for exercising their constitutional right to engage in political activity — or for being related to someone who has.”
“The amendment was drafted to ensure that those with the greatest potential for conflicts of interest are not the ones who are drawing the maps,” said VNP’s Wang. “Any Michigander can participate in the public hearing process, including political party leaders and their family members. We’re confident that the amendment will survive this and any other legal challenges, just as it overcame previous challenges by many of the same special interests who are behind this suit, on the way to the ballot.”