Michigan Supreme Court will decide redistricting battle

A group challenging redistricting reform in Michigan says the measure is too broad to be put before voters this fall.

Update: Republican Supreme Court justices have ties to Michigan gerrymandering group

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether a ballot measure that would create an independent commission to draw legislative districts in the state will be allowed to go before Michigan voters this November.

The state’s high court issued an order Friday saying it would hear oral arguments on the contentious case July 18. The fiercely contested measure pits the group, Voters Not Politicians, which supports redistricting reform, against a Republican and business-backed group challenging the validity of the measure.

At issue is whether the redistricting petition merely seeks to amend the state’s constitution or instead is a far broader revision to the constitution, which can only be made through a more formal constitutional convention?

Katie Fahey, founder and executive director of Voters Not Politicians, issued a statement Friday expressing confidence the proposal will remain on the ballot.

“Voters deserve an opportunity to fix the current process, where politicians manipulate election maps behind closed doors, by voting to create a transparent redistricting process,” Fahey wrote. The VNP measure, she added, allows “voters (to) draw the lines with public input and a set of strict criteria that prevent maps being drawn to favor politicians and special interests.”

The measure has already withstood a review by the Michigan Court of Appeals and was certified to appear on the fall ballot by state canvassers in June.

Currently, Michigan legislators redraw district lines every 10 years following  the U.S. Census. Whichever party is in power during that process can greatly influence how those lines are drawn, which has led to accusations of partisan gerrymandering. The ballot initiative would change the system to create an independent, 13-person board of citizens responsible for drawing the lines with the help of consultants and public hearings.

The redistricting case is being watched closely by political parties and activists in Michigan and across the nation. Democrats and progressives tend to back redistricting reform, noting that statewide voting totals in recent elections have been relatively equal between Democrats and Republicans and yet in state House and particularly Senate races the GOP has reaped huge electoral advantages. Republicans in turn have raised skepticism about the VNP proposal, which they suggest is a veiled effort to shift political power to Democrats in drawing boundary lines.

The petition is being challenged by Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, which contends the VNP proposal would too broadly change the state constitution and doesn’t properly specify those changes in its petition language.

“We believe the Court of Appeals got this wrong,” Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, the group opposing the initiative, wrote in a statement after the canvassers’ ruling in June. “The action of the Michigan Board of Canvassers is a step in the process but not the end of the process.”

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Sat, 07/07/2018 - 7:04am

Hard ball politics at its worse. Expect the court to turn the proposal down.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Sat, 07/07/2018 - 7:23am

I can understand why Republicans are clutching their pearls...
13 citizens and public hearings sounds too much like a recipe for a courtroom in a democracy.
Where in our constitution does it say anything at all about the people having a say?

Debra S
Mon, 07/09/2018 - 1:43pm

I guess you think it should be an oligarchy.

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 1:45pm

" Democrats and progressives tend to back redistricting reform, .... . Republicans in turn have raised skepticism about the VNP proposal, which they suggest is a veiled effort to shift political power to Democrats in drawing boundary lines."
Before they lost power Democrats were just as avid Gerrymanderers as you accuse Republicans to be, maybe, just not as smart about it. They, Democrats, resorted to and supported creating special concentrated minority districts (surprise surprise guaranteed Democrat wins!). This strategy backfired leaving Democrats desperate to regain power and use their power to strengthen and increase their position. Giving either or any political party(s) influence (yes, 4/6 commission members are political.) on this issue is a bad idea and will be inevitably be used to squeeze the competition and will become political. We have enough political unit boundaries out there that a computer and some simple parameters could be used to get us where we need to be, Keep the political hacks out of it.

V. Putin
Mon, 07/09/2018 - 1:20pm

Can I pick the software your computer uses with simple parameters?

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 5:27pm

I have no idea. But you can be certain, given that algorithms can fly a plane around the world, and assuming a boundary prioritization framework could be agreed upon, a relatively simple program could divvy up a geographic area into reasonably equivalently populated sub-units while being compact, is entirely possible..

Jay S. Johnson
Mon, 07/09/2018 - 4:49pm

The article fails to mention that two of the sitting justices on the Michigan Supreme Court took campaign contributions from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. They should recuse themselves from deciding this case or face disbarment if they don't.

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 10:20am

I stand with, Voters Not Politicians!
Let the voters decide!!!