A national Democratic redistricting group headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has thrown its support behind Michigan’s proposal to create a citizens commission responsible for drawing district lines, giving the Michigan ballot effort a $250,000 donation.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), which is being promoted by former President Barack Obama and is working to end political gerrymandering in state legislative districts while also putting more state and Congressional districts within reach of Democratic candidates, announced the contribution to Voters Not Politicians on Wednesday.
“Voters Not Politicians is proof that citizen-led movements can shape the fate of our democracy and that the people can take power back from politicians and truly control their destiny,” Holder said in a statement.
State legislators currently have control over the redistricting process after every decennial U.S. Census. Michigan, which has been controlled by Republicans for the past decade, has been identified as one of the most gerrymandered in the nation. The VNP proposal ‒ also known as Proposal 2 ‒ would create a citizens commission comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and five Independants to draw the lines instead.
Conservative opponents to the VNP proposal have raised concerns that it is largely supported by Democrats and (while cloaked in nonpartisan language) is really intended to work to Democrats’ benefit.
“This contribution reinforces the obvious connection between VNP and the Democrats,” Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, said of the NDRC funding. “It is clear that Proposal 2 is nothing more than a cynical power grab to create a system that benefits Democrats and the left.”
Patrick Rodenbush, spokesman for NDRC, said in an email to Bridge that “supporting an independent redistricting commission is not about left versus right or Democrats versus Republicans… We want fair maps.”
The donation is one of the largest Voters Not Politicians has received to date. Other top donors have included funds associated with the UAW, a Texas-based group founded by moderate Democrats and the Beckwith Constitutional Liberties Fund.
VNP also has cited support from former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz (who is now an independent), Republican state Speaker of the House Rick Johnson and former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in pushing back on allegations that its sole cheerleaders are liberal.
We contributed these funds so that the citizens of Michigan will have the chance to decide their own fate in redistricting. All we ask for is fairness - not partisan advantage. Take the power away from politicians and give it to the people of Michigan. Vote for the Commission https://t.co/Ol9uT3Uyyy— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) September 12, 2018
“We welcome support from anyone who’s dedicated to passing Proposal 2,” said VNP spokeswoman Elizabeth Battiste. “We’re committed to being a nonpartisan campaign, that’s a main facet of our campaign.”
More than half of the Michigan group’s funding comes from thousands of individual donors scattered across the state — significantly more than any other initiative that has been in the race for the ballot this year.
The donation will be used for field organizing and ramping up the group’s information campaign this fall, said Battiste.
“The more people know about Proposal 2, the more likely they are to vote for it,” she said, citing a recent Detroit News and WDIV poll showing nearly a third of voters remain undecided about the initiative. The poll found that another 38 percent of voters supported it, while 31 percent were opposed.