Opinion | Redistricting proposal is confusing and bad for Michigan

Tony Daunt is executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund

Nov. 7 update: One woman’s Facebook post leads to Michigan vote against gerrymandering

The more voters learn about Proposal 2, the more good reasons they have to vote NO.

Proposal 2 is complex and confusing. It eliminates all accountability for bad actors who try to gerrymander Michigan’s electoral districts. It unfairly discriminates against hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents, if not more. And it would cost taxpayers a whole lotta money that could be spent fixing the roads and educating our kids.

Let’s start at the beginning: Proposal 2 is a confusing jumble of radical changes to Michigan’s constitution. It is a frighteningly anti-democratic (with a small “d”) power grab by out-of-state special interest groups trying to trick voters into rigging the game with a jumble of new rules and an unimaginable assortment of unintended consequences. 

Prop 2 adds a staggering 3,200 words to the Michigan Constitution. If you take the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and combine them, you only come out to around 6,300 words.

Think for a moment of the lawsuits, the confusion, and the complexity of American government in total. Now imagine inserting into state government a single amendment that is itself more than half the size of our nation’s founding and governing documents combined. 

Because of the nature of the proposal – it’s a proposed constitutional amendment – fixing any of the glaring and dangerous bugs in the new system would be nearly impossible, too.

Talk about a recipe for disaster. 

Of course, what we do know about the proposal isn’t hot either.

Among its most glaring failings is its complete lack of accountability to Michigan voters. Under Prop 2, the redistricting process would be set apart from any voter or legislative oversight. It would be placed in the hands of 13 unelected bureaucrats, and if they do a poor job, break the rules, or just plain fail to show up to put in an honest day’s work, voters are left powerless.

Prop 2 specifically and explicitly eliminates perhaps the single most critical feature of a representative democracy – it eliminates your right to hold accountable the people you pay to work for you. It silences you at the ballot box.

It also disenfranchises you. Hundreds of thousands of you, anyways. Proposal 2 explicitly prohibits elected officials and those who have recently run for elected office, including precinct delegates, the bedrock for each political party in Michigan, from participating on the panel. 

Counterpoint: Opinion | Gerrymandering has been ‘weaponized’ in Michigan

Prop 2 also prohibits your mom, your dad, you daughter, your son, your step-children, and your step-parents from serving on the panel. If you’re a #Resistance Democrat looking to make a difference and your step-dad is a #MAGA Republican precinct delegate, tough rocks. Prop 2 says you’re disqualified.

Civic engagement has never been more important, or more a part of the lives of Michiganders than in 2018. Proposal 2 will explicitly punish you – and your family members – for having the nerve to want to get involved in your local county Democratic or Republican Party, or for trying to help in your local community. 

It is an outrageous attack on hundreds of thousands of Michiganders whose only offense was participating in our democratic process.

Proposal 2 is also prohibitively expensive. It would enshrine in our constitution a new quasi-governmental organization at taxpayer expense. It would establish a new redistricting commission and mandate that it receive, at a minimum, an amount equal to 25 percent of the Secretary of State’s budget, which is roughly $5 million. Of course, the proposal includes no maximum dollar number, so there’s nothing to stop the costs from running past 7 figures into 8 or even 9. 

Then each of the 13 bureaucrats selected to participate on the redistricting commission take their share. The proposal guarantees them at least (again, “at least”) 25 percent of the governor’s salary. That’s roughly $40,000 each, minimum.

In other words, simply establishing the commission is the cost equivalent of hiring more than 3 new governors, and Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for each of them, to the tune of more than a half-million dollars. At least.

But wait, taxpayers are not done paying yet.

Without any specific voter recourse methods built into the proposal, any scandal or abuse of power by the bureaucrats at the expense of Michigan families would necessarily lead to costly lawsuits.

In fact, supporters of the proposal actually brag about the prospect of costly lawsuits. They tell voters they needn’t fear partisan gerrymandering from the partisan, unelected commission, because the Michigan Supreme Court and federal courts can overturn maps if they’re drawn poorly. 

State and federal lawsuits take a lot of time and they cost a lot of money

Voters expect their tax dollars to be spent fixing the roads, addressing our long-term debt liabilities, and investing in our kids’ classrooms. The last thing taxpayers want is a complex, unaccountable and unfair drain on the state budget. 

Buyer beware. Vote NO on Proposal 2.

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Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:42am

From the people who brought you Right to Work and for profit charter schools. What a joke. We're taking the power back, and nothing this DeVos funded propagandist says is gong to change that.

Betsy Riley
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 8:54am

Very misleading to call the commission "bureaucrats," which is usually a term reserved for government employees (trust me, I was one. I heard the term often enough). The commission is made up of citizens, and practically anyone can apply. Party leaders have a handful of vetos (EACH, so Republicans get vetos and Democrats get vetos) to make sure that highly partisan individuals don't make it onto the final commission. Party leaders are elected, so the voters still have some say in the final commission.

It wouldn't make any sense to elect these people. The whole point is to move the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians. We've used elected officials in the past and I don't think anyone (except whatever party is in power at the time) would argue that the previous system worked.

Thomas E Graham
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:33pm

As soon as the "citizen" gets hired to do the job, they become an employee of the government.

Ron 04
Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:14am

What exactly do we get for our $40,000?

How do we prevent nepotism and cronyism?

For Prop 2
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:21am

"Proposal 2 is complex and confusing. It eliminates all accountability for bad actors who try to gerrymander Michigan’s electoral districts."
Is Daunt saying this with a straight face? The smile in his photo suggests that he isn't. These arguments don't pass the laugh test. They're simply a collection of red herrings. The lack of accountability of representatives in safe districts is precisely the problem that Prop 2 will correct, at least in part.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:24am

Well gee wiz the guy is from the Michigan Freedom Fund, who can argue with freedom? everything he says must be true.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:33am

And what about the person who knows nothing of government, or it’s myriad of rules and regulations getting on the commission? Are we going to ignore the voting rights act and and break up the districts that have traditionally belonged to a certain race? So many unknowns in this proposal. If passed, I think we are heading for disaster.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:26am

I believe that the disaster is already upon us by allowing the rigging of elections through gerrymandered congressional districts.

Ron 04
Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:19am

Currently the Secretary of State is in charge of the Bureau of Elections. That office is about the only thing keeping elections honest.

You're going to take virtually ALL of the power to influence elections into the hands of the one person, the one elected office who is charged with overseeing them?

And you don't see a problem with this?

Google "Soros secretary of state project" then talk to me about accountability

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:14pm

Hi Arjay,

Good questions.

"And what about the person who knows nothing of government...?" Part of the costs associated with the commission are for legal resources. It's expected that a group of random voters isn't going to start with an in-depth understanding of all the relevant laws, procedures, etc. Bringing the commissioners up to speed is part of the Secretary of State's responsibility under the proposal.

"Are we going to ignore the voting rights act...?" No. The Voting Rights Act is mentioned explicitly in the criteria for commissioners to consider. In fact, it's the first item.

There may be unknowns in the proposal, but these are not among them. I'd definitely recommend looking at the constitutional language itself; it's much more detailed than the 100-word summary that's going on the ballot:


Tue, 11/06/2018 - 9:13am

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to read a 3,200 page document.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:37am

Pretty much the usual Republican line about how everything is fine and nothing needs to be changed. AKA 'it works for us to steal elections and votes, so...'

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 11:43am

That’s what I’m talking about !! How is what there proposing going to be worse than the current gerrymandering they’ve been doing rigging electing there favor.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:51am

What a bunch of Chamber of Commerce poppycock! It's difficult to know where to start criticizing this opinion piece. Tony Daunt throws out a bunch of buzz words and expects everyone will be flummoxed by his nonsensical arguments.
#1 It is neither complex nor confusing, unless you have a very limited understanding of the English language.
#2 He complains about it being a "staggering 3200 words". Oh please, that's about 10 pages. Most legislation bills come in at dozens of pages long.
#3 He complains about the cost of lawsuits. The lawsuits will be brought about by the groups that fund his organization. So, just knock off the nonsense and don't file suit when you lose.
#4 He insists that somehow this will disenfranchise voters. The duplicity of this argument is almost too much to comprehend. This proposal will do just the opposite, in that it will allow an impartial group to draw the lines for congressional districts fairly.

It's time to remove gerrymandering from the equation. Vote "YES" on Proposal 2.

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 9:04am

Never! And apparently you did NOT read the proposal in its entirety!!!

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:51am

Daunt and the Michigan Freedom Fund are liars. They've claimed Voters Not Politicians is Obama-backed (it isn't); the commission would be composed of "unelected liberals" (it would have four Republicans, four Democrats, four independents); and the commission would become a "fourth branch of government" (the Michigan Supreme Court, in a MFF case brought before it, rejected that argument).

Susan Bender
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:04pm

This author must have thought that he was writing for a group of village idiots who are revved up with lit torches to go to Dr. Frankenstein's house. All declaratives and no facts! I'm always mistrustful of any political group with "Freedom" in the title, as if thinking somehow replaces freedom.

Ron 04
Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:22am

Then why did Eric Holder just interject $250k into getting it passed?

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 7:30pm

I don't believe he said unelected liberals, I believe he said unelected individuals. And in that statement he was correct, no one on the commission is elected. Therefore the only checks and balances will be the courts. As an independent it sounds like a job I wouldn't mind having minimum pay $40,000 a year plus... Who could argue with that? Oh wait I'd still have to deal with all these whiny people so never mind.

Thomas E Graham
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:31pm

Additional Concerns-
1) Black and Hispanic representation would go away because we could no longer district a compact area with enough minority votes.
2) Competitive districts means greater turnover of incumbents, which means we lose seniority in the US Congress and lose influence in Federal money appropriation.
3) Competitive districts means more special interest money spent on campaigns and more favors owed by elected politicians.

Jamie Lowell
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 2:18pm

Very weak reasoning to vote No.

Prop 2 represents the ability to have the collective consciousness of the voters reflected in representation and to eliminate the artificially retained positions of power possessed by lawmakers more apt to be influenced by lobbyists and big money interests than their own constituents.

Vote Yes On Prop 2!

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:12am

Changing the state Constitution is in and of itself reason to vote NO!

$40,000 to these "citizens"? For how long? A week's work? A month? To do what exactly? Go to meetings? I don't see that spelled out anywhere.

There are two huge problems here. The first is that there can't be one word of this new Constitutional provision changed or corrected without another ballot initiative through another full election cycle. That's pretty scary to wait a year or longer to fix a problem

And 2 almost all the power rests in the Secretary of State, who is the only elected official to oversee these $40,000 non employees. Imagine the difference in interpretation between parties holding that office.

Too many unanswered questions. Too much out of state influence and funding. Too much risk, and too little accountability.

A solid NO

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 10:13am

I have to agree. Too many unanswered questions for my comfort level.

Ron 04
Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:25am

Please show me the language that reflects referencing the voters conscience in selecting the committee?

You can't, because it's not in there.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 2:26pm

On the one hand, Proposal 2. On the other hand, the status quo.
And what's the status quo? Hyper-partisan politicians playing cynical games behind closed doors, rigging our voting districts to stay in power no matter what. If the Dems get a majority in the MI legislature, they will do the same (see Maryland for an example of how awful Dem gerrymandering can be).

Michiganders, we deserve better than this! Vote YES ON 2!

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 3:47pm

Repairing democracy is hard - and it’s worth doing.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 5:50pm

Since we can't trust the politicians to draw the lines fairly; it has resulted in Prop 2. The professionals have proved over many generations that their own self interest trumps any responsibility that they represent us. In other words - they had their chance!

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:39pm

It's not bad for me. And I'm not confused. What makes you so smart and superior?

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 10:13am

It is always the case that the ones who are in power defend their privilege at every cost, even if it involves lying and manipulating. This includes the Michigan Freedom Fund, with Betty DeVos behind it. Some call the DeVos family, the "Koch Brothers" of Michigan. If you read David Daley's book "Ratf""""", Why your Vote doesn't Count" and literature by other respected organizations etc. it becomes clear that in 2010, Republicans manipulated with "Redmapping" behind closed doors voting districts to their advantage. Democrats have done gerrymandering too in a couple of states. In Michigan, according to the popular vote, it should be half Republican, half Democratic representation in the Michigan legislature but now, a significant majority are Republicans because of gerrymandering .

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 9:13pm

Don't leave out the third party representation. In the past I have voted for Green Party (MSU school board because the two majority party ones weren't good at all, including one that in the response to Michigan League of Women Voters would get rid of Agriculture program [reading between the lines it would be throwing out money from federal government for state foundation colleges, like programs for homeowners/apartment dwellers with plants on fighting invasive pests]), US Constitution (US president because I didn't think either of the two majority party candidates would follow the Constitution), Libertarian, and both of the two majority parties. Shouldn't we move away from supporting either majority party to exist forever in our state. The WHIG party at one time was important and now isn't, why protect two parties that few hold in high regard.

Study the issues and vote for the best candidate, it might not be one of the two big part candidates. As a Michigan resident I want representation that is good for both me as an individual and helps everyone in the state be the best they can be. Throwing money gets votes, but spending money wisely with a look at the long term is better. Maybe we could borrow the Pizza Hut pot hole filling campaign with selling advertisements on new asphalt/road for products. Put money into an extra year of school for high unemployment areas with more AP classes (to test out of college classes and not have student debt), trade classes, ROTC (for future military and those wanting an extra scholarship option), and apprentice programs (include the trade unions). Is high unemployment or lack of high speed Internet a common interest that could put the UP with inter-city areas of Flint and Detroit?

Party affiliation doesn't mean as much as good policy and looking out for the whole state. We should all support all legal Michigan residents to contribute toward the goal of making our state better and work toward being the best state for individuals to help each other improve our communities be safer, friendly (respect people as individuals), clean (litterbug free and limit disease carrying pests, like mosquitoes), and other improvements as needed. I don't trust either of the two big parties to care enough to fix problems because they like using problems for reasons to vote for them.

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 6:08pm

How absurd..don't vote for prop 2 bc we'll be disenfranchised?? That's some top notch gaslighting there, Mr. Daunt. We're doing a pretty good job of being disenfranchised now, as politicians draw maps obviously designed to keep their own party in power no matter what. It's about time we take that power out of the hands out of politicians we can't trust & put it back into the hands of we the people. Ignore this fear-mongering & vote yes on Prop 2 for a better system.

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 10:40am

Take the power out of the hands of politicians? That's what elections are for. Don't like the politicians and what they're doing? Vote them out. This proposal doesn't give power back to "the people"; elections do that. No on 2!

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 8:55am

Tony makes some good points in this, but one them that I don't like is that he calls the commission partisan after attacking the fact that people involved in politics and their families can't be involved in the commission. I recognize that Tony is not a fan of government, but $25 million dollars is not that much of an increase compared to the cost of the state government as a whole as the state spends $54 billion each year according to usgovernmentspending.com. After reading that the GOP worked really hard to gerrymander the state, their emails, I can't help but wonder if they are just afraid the proposal will make the districts less extreme. Republicans still win statewide elected office, seems like having less extreme conservatives work for more moderate voters would be a good thing.

I'm voting yes on all three ballot proposals.

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:48pm

Tony Daunt is spewing the GOP rhetoric and hoping you don't notice that he has spent his career deeply involved in GOP politics. And his brand of rhetoric is far, far, far to the right - so even real Republicans should be very wary of his assessments.

Instead, everyone would be best served to truly get a non-partisan analysis of the proposal and then make up their own mind based on fact rather than opinions that sit on one side of the aisle or the other. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has been serving in that capacity for decades and is widely respected by all parties (GOP, DEM, and others). And their analysis is quite thorough and informative. See here: https://crcmich.org/PUBLICAT/2010s/2018/memo1150-redistricting_proposal.pdf

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 8:17pm

Is he joking? "Under prop 2, the redistricting process would be set apart from any voter or legislative oversight."
The voters don't have any oversight as it stands now. And legislative oversight is exactly what's causing gerrymandering to run amok. Time to reign in power grabbing politicians and give it back to the people.
And the next hurdle should be to overturn the electoral college system that allowed the nonsensical clown elected president with a losing share of voters.

Charlotte Morton
Sat, 10/27/2018 - 4:42pm

Now Tony Daunt is posting that VNP took dark money 10.6 million, from secret out of state dark money groups. Please check this out. ASAP

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 11:32am

"...pay for its [13] members of at least $39,825 each. The commission, expected to cost a total of about $4.6 million for each year of work, will only convene every 10 years, and disband once any legal challenges to its redistricting plan are resolved." - Detroit Free Press

So the only way this becomes more expensive is if your Michigan "Freedom" Fund takes legal action.