In yet another outrageous attempt by Republican lawmakers to brush aside voters’ wishes, a GOP-controlled legislative committee seeks to alter budget control over Michigan’s new anti-gerrymandering panel created by Proposal 2 last November by putting it in the hands of the Legislature.
The 2018 ballot proposal calling for an independent commission to redraw election districts, which was highly popular with voters, specified that the Michigan Secretary of State would administer the process of drawing new maps. The proposal also outlined funding levels, as determined by the Secretary of State.
But a House-Senate conference committee on Thursday voted to put the new nonpartisan redistricting process under the confines of a $3.4 million budget derived by the Republican Legislature, not the $4.6 million spending plan previously proposed.
Nancy Wang, executive director of the Voters Not Politicians group that mounted the successful Proposal 2 petition drive, said they object to “any attempt to undermine the commission or the Secretary of State.”
“These types of political games are exactly what voters stood firmly against in the last election.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland) said that GOP lawyers approved of the decision to place the redistricting commission within the Legislature’s budget.
“We feel that we’re strictly following what the ballot proposal had indicated we needed to do,” Stamas said.
At the time the ballot language was written in 2017, Republican Ruth Johnson was the Secretary of State. In the 2018 election, Democrat Jocelyn Benson won the office.
Since the election results that produced a wave of Democratic support, 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.
Proposal 2 was the most popular ballot proposal in 2018, securing more than 2.5 million votes, including a majority in 67 of Michigan’s 83 counties. Michigan has earned the reputation as one of the most gerrymandered states in America.
Voters heard all of the 2018 campaign rhetoric about Proposal 2: that it would create an outrageously expensive process, that the Secretary of State would hold undue influence, and that the entire procedure was a Democratic Party scam to grant them partisan control of the map-making process. Yet, voters approved the plan by a 61-39 percent margin.
Voters Not Politicians is also trying to fend off a lawsuit filed July 30 by Republican operatives that claims the makeup of the 13-member commission, which will draw new district boundaries after the 2020 Census, is unconstitutional.
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 by Jan. 1, 2020. A lottery-style process will select the commissioners.
The ballot proposal blocks elected officials and party activists from serving, and it plugs any loopholes by banning a parent, child or spouse of those excluded individuals from serving. Those limitations represent the crux of the lawsuit.
On Thursday, legal briefs were filed by Voters Not Politicians request that the court deny plaintiffs’ bid for a preliminary injunction, which would halt the process of selecting commission members.
“This lawsuit is a desperate attempt by those who benefited the most from gerrymandering Michigan’s maps to sabotage the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that voters put in place,” Wang said. “We are confident that the amendment adopted by a supermajority of voters in 2018 will stand.”