Michigan ballot issues: What to know about Prop 2 (redistricting)

Proposal 2 survived a lengthy legal battle over whether it was too broad to qualify for the ballot. The Michigan Supreme Court determined it is narrow enough and does not require a constitutional convention to be considered. Here, Voters Not Politicians supporters are shown outside the Hall of Justice in Lansing after oral arguments on July 31 before high court. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

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

Michigan voters will decide Nov. 6 whether they’d like to radically change the way state and federal voting district lines are drawn in Michigan. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about Prop 2 ahead of election day.

Related: Michigan Proposal 2 redistricting group defends dark money as fighting fire with fire
Related: Truth Squad | Scare tactics on Michigan redistricting measure get foul rating

BALLOT ISSUE: Proposal 2 (Voters Not Politicians)

Bridge series on ballot issues

Bridge Magazine is providing an in-depth look this week at three statewide ballot proposals Michigan voters will decide Nov. 6.

Throughout this crucial election year, Bridge and the nonprofit Center for Michigan are providing fact-based, data-driven information to voters about the elections for governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and other statewide and legislative offices. This includes ballot initiatives. Our ballot issue coverage began Tuesday continues through Thursday.

Proposal 2 (redistricting)

Proposal 3 (voting access)

Proposal 1 (legalizing recreational marijuana)



WHAT IT WOULD DO: Take the power to draw legislative district lines away from whichever party is in control in Lansing (in recent election cycles that’s been Republicans) and create a commission of citizens responsible for drawing them after each decennial census. The commission would be made up of 13 people self-identified by political affiliation: four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents, who will devise representative maps with the help of consultants and significant public input.

See an example of what you'll see on your ballot below.

WHO'S BEHIND IT: Voters Not Politicians. Founded with a Facebook post in 2016, the group rallied thousands of volunteers to gather more than 400,000 signatures to place it on the November ballot. It’s been endorsed by a variety of advocacy organizations, local leaders and some on the national scene — including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. State Democratic political leaders are generally in support of it.

WHO'S AGAINST IT: Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, a group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, opposed the proposal through a lengthy court battle. A conservative advocacy group, The Michigan Freedom Fund, has advertised against it, and the Michigan Oak Initiative sponsored flyers opposing it at the state Republican Party convention in August. State Republican political leaders are largely opposed to it.

Related: Here’s how Michigan’s redistricting commission would work
5 concerns about Michigan’s redistricting proposal and what to make of them

Sample of what you'll see on your ballot

WHO’S FUNDING IT: With around $1.6 million raised at the last campaign finance reporting deadline, its largest funders now include the Obama-backed National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Texas-based Action Now Initiative, East Lansing’s Beckwith Constitutional Liberties Fund and the Michigan United Auto Workers. More than half of its funding came from donors giving less than $16,000. VNP reported 16,212 individual contributions.

BENEFITS: Both documents and statistics indicate that Michigan Republicans have successfully gerrymandered districts to their advantage since 2000. The architects of Prop 2 say it is intended to end this practice (and stop Democrats from doing the same if they come to power.) Experts can’t say for certain whether it will have its intended effect, but other states with independent commissions have seen more competitive races after switching their system.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan found there are two big benefits to adopting the proposal: It would increase transparency about how state and congressional lines are drawn and reduce partisan influence in the redistricting process.

There are several defenses against partisanship built into the proposal. To name a few, those with a lot to gain from political influence (such as candidates for office and lobbyists) are excluded from serving; legislative leaders will have a handful of vetos to dole out when commissioners are chosen, and final maps have to be approved by a majority with at least two commissioners from each political bucket. This is a departure from the current process, run by legislators aligned with a political party.

Related: Michigan redistricting group brings in whopping $13.9 million
Related: Maps show how gerrymandering benefitted Michigan Republicans
Related: Emails: Michigan Republicans brag that redistricting ‘protects incumbents’

The proposal also guarantees a significantly more transparent map-making process. The current system allows for maps to be drawn in private and passed fairly quickly with little public input. “Because much of the discussion of redistricting happens behind closed doors, it is difficult to know who is influencing the process,” the Citizens Research Council report said.

Prop 2 would reverse that: All commission meetings, drafts, data and conversations would be public record. Several public hearings would be required before and after maps are drawn and before commissioners vote. The commission’s finances would be subject to a state audit annually.

CONCERNS: The Citizens Research Council report identified three major downsides to the proposal: Voters could not remove commissioners from their position and the revamped redistricting process would likely be both slower and more expensive than the current system.

Commissioners would not be elected by the public. The only way an eligible commissioner could be removed from office is by a vote of 10 of their 12 peers (so, all but two of their fellow commissioners). “As a result, there is a question of what constitutes accountability for commissioners,” the report concluded.

Using an independent commission to draw maps would also probably cost more. The state appropriated $878,000 for redistricting in 2011, not including legal costs to defend the maps. In comparison, Prop 2 would result in an estimated $4.6 million appropriation annually.

The Citizens Research Council’s analysis of Arizona’s and California’s commissions costs indicate it might take more than that depending on how frequently the maps are challenged in court. The state would be required to reimburse the commission for any funds used beyond what was appropriated.

Another big concern of opponents to Prop 2 is the ambiguity of political self-identification. Those applying to become commissioners have to swear to their political affiliation under threat of perjury, but even independent voters tend to lean one way or another. Several safeguards in the proposal are intended to protect against heavily partisan maps, such as requiring a majority vote that includes at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two independents to approve a map. However, there is no way to guarantee the commission remains free completely free of partisan politics.

DEM. GOVERNOR CANDIDATE GRETCHEN WHITMER’S TAKE: “I’m a yes vote. I support the Voters Not Politicians ballot proposal to create an independent citizens redistricting commission. Michiganders deserve to choose who their elected officials are, not the other way around. In 2005, I co-sponsored legislation to create an independent redistricting commission. Michigan has some of the worst gerrymandered elections maps in the nation, and I knew it back then, and I still believe now that we need an independent redistricting commission to oversee the process – so every vote counts and we have a government that represents the people of our state,” Whitmer told Bridge via email.

GOP GOVERNOR CANDIDATE BILL SCHUETTE’S TAKE: Schuette told Bridge in a recent interview he will be voting no. “We have standards in place that Republicans and Democrats and courts have ruled on in the past, I think that’s a far better approach.”

FUN FACT: Four other states — Colorado, Ohio, Missouri and Utah — will also consider initiatives this fall that would change their redistricting system.

Related: 2018 Bridge Michigan Voter Guide: Links to our relevant election coverage


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Betsy Riley
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 8:45am

Could you clarify what you mean when you say ,"In comparison, Prop 2 would result in an estimated $4.6 million appropriation annually."

From what I understand, this commission would only be called once every ten years when redistricting occurs. So that doesn't sound like an annual appropriation.

Riley Beggin
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:29am

Hi Betsy, thanks for the question. While it only takes a year to draw district lines, it oftentimes takes several years afterwards to defend them in court. (For example, here's a list of the litigation challenging California's commission and maps from the latest redistricting cycle.) The appropriation would continue until all legal challenges to the maps are complete. Commissioners would have to report expenditures, undergo an annual audit and return any unused funding at the end of each year. They could also use more money than what is appropriated and the state would be required to reimburse them.

Sherry A. Wells
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 9:28am

There are FOUR political groupings, third parties being the one left out. Plus, those third party members most likely to be interested also most likely have been officers or candidates in their party. NOTE: Most democracies have more than two major parties.

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 1:44pm

The five commissioners that are neither Republican nor Democrat would include both third-party voters AND unaffiliated voters. You are correct that they are technically two different groups. That is why they would get a combined total of five seats on the commission, whereas the majority and minority parties would only get four apiece. Also, the language is written to stand the test of time. Should the Libertarian Party or Green Party (or even the Whigs) rise in popularity to become one of the two largest parties in the state, then that party would become either the "majority" or "minority" party and would thereby receive four commissioners self-identifying as such.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:11am

I find one sentence in the article to be a little confusing "The commission would be made up of 13 self-identified Republicans (four), Democrats (four) and independents (five) tasked with drawing representative maps with the help of consultants and significant public input." When I first read it my impression was that there where going to be 13 Republicans, 4 Democrats, 5 Independents. My eye skipped the (four) behind Republicans. I would like to suggest that the word members be added after "self-identified" in the article.

David Zeman
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:50pm

Roger -- Thank you for bringing fresh eyes to our text. I can see how that would be confusing and will tweak it now. Our readers always make us better. 

David Zeman

Bridge Editor 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 1:42pm


Kevin Grand
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:18pm

When the SoS sends out forms to potential commission members, isn't that information FOIA-able?

In other words, would people who sign up, even though they might not be chosen in the end, be bombarded with directed political ads, phone calls and e-mails?

Erwin Haas
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:48pm

The language that appears on the ballot does not resemble what is quoted in this brazen attempt to further Democrat goals; https://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Official_Ballot_Wording_Prop_18-2...
It refers to "4 each who self-identify as affiliated with the 2 major political parties" but we now have 3 major parties. This proposal is flawed beyond resuscitation.
We Libertarians will take our 4 commissions slots; how the Dems and Reps want to litigate over the other four partisan slots is their problem....
Bridgemi really should disguise their biases and sloppiness of language more cleverly.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:42pm

Hate to break it to you, but Libertarians are not a major political party. You're Republicans who like weed and don't understand the implications of extreme deregulation

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:41pm

Bones, You forgot against foreign incursion, market manipulation , rent seeking, subsidization (corporate and personal), government seizures and favoring criminal justice reform, Gov't budget reform, drug decriminalization and property rights along with many others.

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 4:34pm

Libertarians: We hate rent seeking, but are fine with monopoly. We hate market manipulation, unless it's corporations doing it. Hate to break it to you, but the free market will never be free, economic actors are seldom rational, and capital accumulation is more dangerous than government intervention.

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 4:13pm

I don't think you have a reasonable and objective understanding of libertarian, big L or little l.

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 4:13pm

I don't think you have a reasonable and objective understanding of libertarian, big L or little l.

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 5:27pm

If the goal is to have more competitive races, a competitive race is where a candidate wins by 5%, many candidates would consider a 53% to 48% victory as a 'mandate'. How will towns and cities be divided? In my City [of 40,000] a Republican hasn't won in the 18 years I have lived here and it is a City Commissioners are non partisan. This is also true of the cities on our south and west.

Will the new system require some dividing out city into two or three slivers so we will have a 'competitive' district? What will happen to large cities like Detroit that has no significant number of Republican voters how many slivers will it have to be cut into going across Eight Mile road? What is wrong with the people with like interest, who choose to live in a particular town [like Lansing or Flint] not be allowed to select where they live based on the politics of the town? Ann Arbor is a glaring case of one Party town, will it have to be sliced up so rural areas around will be included, will Yipsi and western Wayne County be separated from Congresswoman's district to make it competitive? Where will they find the Republicans, in the UP?

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 12:48pm

so on here your saying all this about how good it is for people when I read the ballot it is also making it for anyone that gets a drivers license including felons and illegal alliens a automatic right to vote.... not going to happen!! that is illegal!! I will NOT vote for this in any way!!

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 3:08pm

Felons are not denied the right to vote in Michigan once their incarceration ends , and illegal aliens will not be automatically registered to vote when getting a license. Educate yourself and apply a touch of critical thinking

Michael Borton
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 7:20pm

We dont live in a democray .this is a representive repubilic .majority not suppose to rule.our founding father where smart enough to know straight majority rule be issue
Democrats are pushing this becuase the want to give more power to detroit,grand rapids,ann arbor and kalamazoo .the 4 cities will tell the rest of state how to live even thou they make up just 15% of state land.
what proof will we have the the indepenats are really not democrats claiimimg independant to get on commission.

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 11:27pm

100% agree. That is exactly how my understanding of it is when I read it. If I am reading it wrong or just mistaking of my understanding, i'm voting "NO". I trust a court system much more than I would trust a commission comprised of those of whom cannot be fired.

Sat, 10/27/2018 - 9:42am

How is the board chosen and what is the length of the term? I’m a Republican and it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but there is just as much likelihood of partisanship manipulation as with the current system. “ Self Identification” means nothing nor does being identified as being a R or D. People lie for political gain all the time. However, if Democrats are in favor of something, that’s usually a reason to vote against it. I’m a no.

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 10:50pm

End Gerrymandering by Voting Against Proposal 2. The Idea is Awesome but without details it will not be effective.
I suggest that each Congressional District consist of an equal number (3, 4, or 5 as determined by the Redistricting Commission) contiguous State Senate Districts. Each State Senate District should consist of an equal number (3, 4, or 5 as determined by the Redistricting Commission) contiguous State House Districts, within the same county or part thereof. Each State House District should consist of contiguous municipalities. No municipality nor part thereof should be in more than 2 House Districts. Compactness should be based on the 1785 Ordinance which established 6x6 mile townships - an Area/Perimeter ratio of 1.5 miles. Overall the the number of State House Districts must be based on the combination of the following criteria: a) the highest (avg population )/(population range) ratio, b) an average Area/Perimeter ratio closest to 1.5 miles c) the lowest average number of municipalities or parts thereof (excluding surrounded municipalities). Discussion of State Senate Districts must not begin until the State House Districts are established and not subject to change. State Senate Discussion of Congressional Districts must not begin until the State Senate Districts are established and not subject to change.
The only information available to the Redistricting Commission must be limited to a municipality's population and geographic boundary coordinates. The only way that the Redistricting Commission's determination of Districts can be rejected is by a law passed within 30 days of announcement. The law must provide justifiable instructions to the Redistricting Commission. The Redistricting Commission may ask the Court of Claims to declare such a law unconstitutional based on required criteria. Such a request must be made within 10 days of the law's passage. The Court of Claims must make a decision within 30 days of the request. Either the Redistricting Commission or the State may appeal the Court of Claims decision to the Court of Appeals. Such a request must be made within 10 days of the Court of Claims decision. The Court of Appeals must make a decision within 30 days of the request. Either the Redistricting Commission or the State may request that the Supreme Court review the Court of Appeals decision. to the Supreme Court . Such a request must be made within 10 days of the Court of Appeals decision. Should the Supreme Court not decide to review the Court of Appeals decision within 10 days of the request of the request, the Court of Appeals decision will stand. Otherwise the Supreme Court must render a decision within 30 days of deciding to review the Court of Appeals decision.
I suggest that each county half-elect a member of the Redistricting Commission. The half-election can occur either by 1) the County Commission selecting 2 candidates for the county-wide election, or 2) the County Commission selecting 1 of the top 2 elected in a county-wide election. All elections will be non-partisan, In order to be eligible a candidate must under penalty of felony perjury declare 1) that they have not held public office in the last 5 years, 2) that they have no current or future conflict of interest with any government or party official, and 3) that they have no plans on becoming a government or party official for the next 5 years.

Does Not Make Sense
Mon, 10/29/2018 - 4:23pm

I am voting no on Proposal 3 because straight ticket voting has no connection to the other 3 points. It is a rider- an unconnected piece attached to something that looks good otherwise because it is not likely to pass on its own, Straight-ticket voting is a separate issue.

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 2:28pm

This will not change anything at all. It will be just a matter of time and things will go back to how they were.

Deborah Marie
Thu, 11/08/2018 - 10:31am

What date does the redistricting proposal take effect? It already passed, I'd would like the effective date please.
Thank you in advance of your answer.