Leaders of the petition drive seeking to end partisan gerrymandering in Michigan’s election process announced today that they have collected 300,000 signatures, which puts them well on their way to putting redistricting reform on the November 2018 statewide ballot.
The group known as Voters Not Politicians said its 3,500 volunteers will be out in force at polling places on Tuesday, Election Day in cities across the state.
The campaign needs 315,654 valid signatures to secure a spot on the 2018 ballot. But the drive expects to turn in about 400,000 signatures, providing a cushion against invalid or duplicate signatures that would be tossed out, as its 180-day deadline looms in February.
The petition drive has tried to maintain a nonpartisan aura. It’s well-known that Democrats took advantage of their partisan strength in Lansing to draw unfair legislative districts for the state House and Senate in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Since then, the Republicans have dominated the redistricting process.
Not surprisingly, Voters Not Politicians has faced harsh GOP criticism. Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser recently sent an email to party supporters warning them not to sign the petition, claiming Voters Not Politicians is “attempting to stack the deck in favor of Democrats.”
But the petition group’s strongest argument may be that Michigan ranks as one of the most gerrymandered states in America. That’s because the state’s election system gives Lansing legislators from the current party in power complete control of mapping district lines for the coming decade after new census population figures are released.
The proposed state constitutional amendment put forth by Voters Not Politicians, following in the footsteps of reform movements in other states, would put the drawing of district lines in the hands of a 13-member citizens commission consisting of five independents, four self-declared Democrats and four acknowledged Republicans.
Elected officials, legislative staffers, candidates, lobbyists and political consultants – and their family members – would be barred from serving on the independent redistricting panel.
“We are excited about the outstanding efforts of our all-volunteer petition gatherers, and are confident we will be able to turn in sufficient signatures before the end of the year,” said Katie Fahey, president of Voters Not Politicians.
“Citizens are unhappy to learn that politicians get to choose their own voters instead of voters choosing them. Michigan is ready to end the extreme partisan gerrymandering, by both parties, that robs voters of their constitutional rights to hold representatives accountable at the ballot box.”
Meanwhile, Voters Not Politicians has retained two heavy hitters in Michigan politics as advisers for their campaign. The law firm Fraser Trebilcock will serve as legal counsel to contest legal challenges to the signature-gathering process. Public relations firm Martin Waymire will play the lead role in shaping the group’s PR message from now until the anticipated November 2018 vote.