Truth Squad | Scare tactics on Michigan redistricting measure get foul rating

A new radio ad by Prop 2 opposition group Protect My Vote says a citizens redistricting commission would “cost you an insane amount of money” and ensure tax revenue no longer goes to roads and schools. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley, Flickr CC)

Related: Michigan Proposal 2 redistricting group defends dark money as fighting fire with fire​
Related: Michigan redistricting group brings in whopping $13.9 million

[CORRECTION: This Truth Squad originally said comissioners' salaries would be 25 percent of the governor's pay. In fact, Proposal 2 calls for commissioners to be paid "at least" 25 percent of  the governor's salary, as decided by the Legislature. The article has been updated.] 

A new radio ad running throughout Michigan from Protect My Vote raises the prospect of unchecked spending if Proposal 2, the initiative to change the state’s redistricting system, is approved by voters.

The ad seizes on a major criticism by opponents to Prop 2: It would likely cost more money to create a proposed 13-citizen commission to decide how legislative lines are drawn in the state. Currently, whichever political party is in power in Lansing controls the drawing of state and congressional maps.

Related: Here’s how Michigan’s redistricting commission would work
Related: Michigan ballot issues: What to know about Prop 2 (redistricting)

Because the ad contains several whoppers, Truth Squad rates it a foul.

THE CLAIM

The minute-long ad says Prop 2 “will cost you an insane amount of money.” It continues:

Proposal 2 writes a blank check to 13 new “commissioners” for a new bureaucracy, and they can spend whatever they want. No limits on staffing, lawyers, or consultants. Or themselves. Unlimited pay and perks.

If Proposal 2 passes, their spending spree is in your constitution forever. Your taxes won’t be fixing roads or teaching children. You’ll be paying for a whole new lifestyle for 13 people picked out of a hat. Lucky thirteen!

THE FACTS

The nugget of truth at the center of this ad is the part of Proposal 2 (section 6, subsection 5 for those following along at home) that requires the state to “indemnify” — a.k.a. reimburse — the commission for any costs beyond what the legislature appropriates.

That may be considered a “blank check,” but the commission can’t indiscriminately spend money as this ad suggests.  

The ballot proposal specifically restricts spending to the tasks necessary for the commission to fulfill its duties. While that’s no guarantee some future commissioners won’t try to sneak in extra expenses (those unlimited “perks” the ad references), it would exceed a commissioner’s authority to do so. And commissioners’ spending would have many, many eyes on it: The commission would have to be audited annually and have spending reports sent to the legislature and the governor.

Individual commission members' pay is listed as at least 25 percent of the governor's salary. Currently, 25 percent amounts to $39,825 annually. They could theoretically get more than that but, importantly, it's lawmakers, not commissioners, who set their pay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in Michigan is $48,300. So a commissioner’s salary of just under 40 grand may constitute a lifestyle, but hardly the kind suggested by the ad.

Without a doubt, Prop 2 would create a more expensive system than Michigan’s current one, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan: $878,000 was appropriated for the last round of redistricting in 2011 (not including the amount spent to defend maps in court, which can be significant).

If Prop 2 passes, the state would appropriate $4.6 million annually for the commission until all legal challenges to its work are over. The commission would be required to return unused funds. The CRC estimates that over a 10-year redistricting cycle, funding for the process would be around $10 million. That equates to .01 percent of the General Fund (and roughly $1 per Michigander per decade). By comparison the Michigan legislature appropriated $4.8 billion for the Department of Transportation and $14.8 billion for the school aid fund this fiscal year alone.

“Voters have a right to know just how expensive Proposal 2 will be,” said Tony Daunt, spokesperson for Protect My Vote and frequent critic of Prop 2, in a press release. “Worse, the proposal would cram this massive new bureaucracy and spending into the state’s constitution, which means voters would have almost no recourse to ever do anything about it.”

Daunt is right that putting a new redistricting system in the state constitution would make it harder to change. However, it wouldn’t necessarily be “in your constitution forever,” as the ad states.

There are three ways to change the state constitution, and constitutional amendments have been changed before. For example, Article IV Sec. 12 was amended twice — once in 1968 and again in 2002.

It’s also not true, as the ad claims, that paying for a redistricting commission means your tax dollars wouldn’t go to fixing roads or schools. In fact, the state constitution itself directly requires some tax money for roads and some for schools. Prop 2 would not change that.

CONCLUSION

It’s vital that Michiganders consider the cost of any new public policy before they vote on it. But Protect My Vote’s new ad uses a combination of scare tactics, exaggeration and falsehoods to reach  unsubstantiated conclusions.

We give it a foul.

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

Truth Squad rating categories

Truth Squad has reduced the number of rating categories to the following:

  • FAIR: The ad or statement is generally accurate and fairly and credibly presents the speaker’s position on the issue at hand.     
  • MISLEADING: While individual parts of the ad or statement may be accurate, it reaches a conclusion or leaves an impression about an issue or candidate that is misleading in important respects
  • FOUL: The ad or statement contains one or more material factual errors

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Comments

Bones
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 8:22am

You've got a dozen people in these very comment sections spreading disinformation about Prop 2. Fact checking them when they pop up would be nice

Thomas E Graham
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 8:33am

I'm sorry to disagree, but you yourselves have just told a "whopper"!!!
"Individual commission members’ pay is specifically listed as 25 percent of the governor’s salary. "
That is NOT true. Individual commission members’ pay is specifically listed as AT LEAST 25 percent of the governor’s salary. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

They are also not limited to what "consultants" they use or how much they pay them, opening the door to all kinds of backroom "cousin Jimmy" kickbacks and corruption. I haven't found any spending oversight by legislators in the proposal.

The proposal also does not put a 2 year limit on the map drawing (thus the $10 million expected cost), no timelines at all are specified. The redrawing process could last 10 years, and theoretically, they wouldn't even have to retire from the position if it lasted longer than that, and another 13 would be hired to redraw again.

I just wonder who in their right mind would leave a good job for a 2 year position at the government? I guess current job seekers who don't have any politicians in their families. So that means recent college grads and the unemployed. Great.

Kyle Richardson
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 9:22am

Mr. Graham, please don't believe the propaganda that is being spread about this. This is a site for discussing truth.

I encourage you to look at section 7 - it specifically says "Not later than November 1 in the year immediately following the federal decennial census, the commission shall adopt a redistricting plan under this section for each of the following types of districts: state senate districts, state house of representative districts, and congressional districts"

Please also look at section 5 - "The legislature shall appropriate funds sufficient to compensate the commissioners and to enable the commission to carry out its functions, operations and activities...at an amount equal to not less than 25 percent of the general fund/general purpose budget for the secretary of state for that fiscal year."

And then later in section 5 - "The commission shall furnish reports of expenditures, at least annually, to the governor and the legislature and shall be subject to annual audit as provided by law."

Thomas E Graham
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 10:59am

Mr. Richardson,
Two people can look at the same topic in different lights and disagree without disrespecting each other.
In that vain, I respectfully disagree with you. Although you are correct about section 7, it does not say what will happen if they fail to adopt a redistricting plan. Section 18, however, does say their term ends after judicial review of the plan. To me, this indicates a term of service lasting indefinitely. Until the regulations that implement this process are created that define the procedures, limits, timelines, consequences for failure, etc..., all of this is up in the air. The might adopt regulations that say if the commission hasn't created a map in the required timeline then the courts must draw the map, unless there is no change in the number of districts in which case they remain the same.

"at an amount equal to not less than 25 percent of" means that a bottom limit has been set, not a top limit. The legislation then goes on to say that any expense the commission has will be reimbursed. Again, no limit has been set.

The US Supreme Court has defined "needful and necessary" spending as (paraphrasing) any spending that is vaguely associated with the purpose of the department the spending came out of, and of course this only applies to federal spending. If an audit finds the that commissioners spent money directly on themselves, yes that would be caught in an audit. Other "needful" spending that is indirectly related to the process will be accepted without challenge.

I'm looking forward to the regulatory process to implement this. The devil is always in the details.

Kyle Richardson
Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:01am

Mr. Graham,

Section 6, Paragraph 7: "The secretary of state shall issue a call convening the commission by October 15 in the year of the federal decennial census. Not later than November 1 in the year immediately following the federal decennial census, the commission shall adopt a redistricting plan under this section for each of the following types of districts: state senate districts, state house of representative districts, and congressional districts."

Section 6, Paragraph 14, Sub clause C: "A final decision of the commission to adopt a redistricting plan requires a majority vote of the commission, including at least two commissioners who affiliate with each major party, and at least two commissioners who do not affiliate with either major party. If no plan satisfies this requirement for a type of district, the commission shall use the following procedure to adopt a plan for that type of district:"

Sub clause C then describes a ranked choice voting process and ends with:

"If no plan meets the requirements of this subparagraph, the secretary of state shall randomly select the final plan from among all submitted plans pursuant to part (14)(C)(I)"

You say, "Until the regulations that implement this process are created that define the procedures, limits, timelines, consequences for failure, etc..., all of this is up in the air. " I think those regulations that you are searching for are already quite adequately defined in the proposal.

As to your discussion on "needful and necessary" spending, I still submit to you that the legislature and Governor would have ultimate authority over the commission's spending, with the added check (unique from the current process) that the commission's expenses would be public record and subject to audit. Currently the money spent on redistricting is not required to be made public or separate from the legislatures "regular" duties.

I, too, look forward to the implementation of this commission. I believe that many will be pleasantly surprised as the full thoughtfulness of this proposal comes into view.

Bob Dunn
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 9:23am

You just do not want this probably because of your loyalty to a party and the Chamber of Commerce. This proposal threatens the control of the majority party power and gives it back to the people. As for who might want these positions there are many individuals who have retired early in life or those who retired and are looking for something else. Representatives run for a two-year term with no guarantees they will be reelected. Yet, they quit their jobs to provide a service. Other people can too. I would rather trust a representative commission versus one party making the decision.

Matt
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 7:38pm

Hmm. Isn't the state legislature a representative body? And it's even elected, unlike this commission! So maybe your problem isn't the body doing the re-districting isn't representative, but but who is in the majority?

duane
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 1:39am

After over 200 years of 'gerrymandering' what material harm can you link to majority Party setting districts, what material positive impact can we expect from the change, has 'gerrymandering' prevented the majority Party from loosing their majority?
If the answer is 'no' to these questions then this is at best an exercise in the use of ballot proposal process because people can and at worst an attempt by those out of the majority fearing a long time from their regaining it to grab at any change.

Riley Beggin
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:14am

Hi Thomas, thank you so much for your comment — you’re right, I incorrectly wrote that the pay was listed as specifically 25 percent when it is in fact AT LEAST 25 percent. The legislature can choose to pay commissioners more if they’d like. We are updating the story right now to reflect that. I deeply, deeply regret the error. 

To address your other comments: They could use whatever consultants they want, but every choice, meeting, budget item, etc. would be public. So if you (or the legislature) saw them giving kickbacks to friends and family, you could call them out. You’re right, though, that legislators don’t have a say over how they spend money or how much. 

It’s not clear who would choose to serve on a commission like this, but here is who served on California’s (which would be a similar system): https://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/bios/

Zeke
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 9:04am

As imperfect as it may be now there is no rational explanation to continue the current abuse by Republicans to control Michigan's House and Senate to the disadvantage of Michigan Voters. Have you ever looked at the current map your Chamber of Commerce has financed?
It's horribly contrived by those who consistently want to deny voter wishes for good and fair representation. So the next time you run into your local businessperson who contributes to his or her's Chamber of Commerce ask them why they are paying for and discriminating against fair districting? Ask them if they approved the currently absurdly disfigurement district map that in fact disqualifies your voting rights. Then ask them how they can sleep at night?

Thomas E Graham
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 9:41am

There is currently one highly gerrymandered district, and that is the result of the federal law requiring minority majority districts when possible. This proposal would more than likely eliminate the only black district in Michigan in favor of 2 democrat districts becoming more solidly democrat.
If this proposal creates more competitive districts then representative turnover will reduce our influence at the federal level because new reps will not have seniority, they will be junior congressmen and not eligible to hold chairman positions on federal committees. This reduces Michigan's competitiveness for federal funds.
There are indeed very real consequences, very rational consequences and thereby non-partisan reasons to not want this.

Pat
Mon, 10/29/2018 - 2:45pm

That is just another scare story dreamed up by Republicans aimed at strangling the needs and wants of Michigan’s people.

Arjay
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 9:05am

We have to ask ourselves does something like Prop 2 even belong in the Constitution? A Constitution should specify what it is that we want to achieve, not how it is to be achieved.

Lennie
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 9:20am

All for ending the current corrupt methods but the way this proposal is written, it's loaded with pork.

Yeah somebody here posted an op/ed claiming a simple software based census system wouldn't change things but it appears to me that we could do better than what we are voting on.

Rick
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 10:05am

So what is YOUR suggestion to the corrupt process now?
'we could do better' ... yes, we could do way better but the GOP doesn't want any changes to their corrupt, slanted process. This is better than anything you've suggested.

zooman
Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:10am

In ruling that Proposal 2 could go on the ballot, the Michigan Supreme Court made it clear that the proposal was similar to provisions in the 1963 Constitution that established an independent citizens commission to draw district boundaries. Three essential provisions in Proposal 2 are analogous to provisions in the 1963 Constitution.
• First, the 1963 Constitution changed the previous Constitution, which had given the responsibility for drawing district lines to the legislature. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that the legislature was ill-suited to do that work, and gave the commission full autonomy to draw the boundaries. The legislature and governor had no role in the process.
• Some opponents have claimed that Proposal 2 excludes too many people from being members of the commission. However, the 1963 Constitution excluded far more people than Proposal 2 does: All “officers or employees of the federal, state or local governments, excepting notaries public and members of the armed forces reserve” were barred. Sitting legislators were covered by this provision.
• Finally, it banned members of the commission from running for the state legislature for two years, effectively barring them from running in the first election after redistricting was completed, re-emphasizing the inherent conflict of interest legislators would have if they draw the lines.
The legality of these three provisions has never been challenged.
Finally, opponents of Proposal 2 have offered no alternative proposals that would end legislature's role in drawing district lines. It is pretty obvious that their only goal is to preserve the status quo.

Thomas E Graham
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:17am

Mr. Zooman,
If the current legislation banned all “officers or employees of the federal, state or local governments, excepting notaries public and members of the armed forces reserve” as well as anyone with an elected position and their families, I think I could get behind it.
I would like to offer a better solution. How about a simple law that states the commission will consist of 4 democrats, 4 republicans and 5 independents voted on in the primaries, that eliminates the selection costs and pushes it to the candidates. Primary voters in Michigan can only vote for one party, ensuring their affiliation instead of self describing. There would be plenty of people running for the commission, so lots to choose from. Then put in salary and spending caps as well as a spending authorization process that needs to go through the Secretary of State's office. Requests and reasons for accepting or declining would be made public. Then finally, spell out timelines and consequences for not delivering on time, including dissolving the commission and letting the courts decide the new maps.

David Waymire
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:39am

Thomas, do you support the current process, where politicians use corrupt contributions from private and secret sources to outsource the drawing of lines to unknown consultants and lawyers for unknown amounts for the express purpose of undermining the voters of the other party? This leads to rigged lines, regardless of what party does it. Let's bring it into the sunshine, require full transparency, mandate bipartisan agreement and expect better results. In California, the approval rating of the Legislature there has gone from 14 percent to 57 percent since it put in place non-partisan citizen run redistricting.

duane
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 1:48am

California is so broadly and solidly Democrat, redistricting doesn't matter. In the last 10 years the net population flow has been out [for legal residents], has the non=partisan change stemmed that flow?
If your going use California as a model, please be balanced about the possible impact.

Thomas E Graham
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 9:46am

Did you actually read the comment that you're responding to? I proposed a system that would solve literally all the issues you mention and is completely transparent.
Just because I am not a fan of the current system doesn't mean I have to support this change. Honestly, I think the current system is better than the proposed system, but I do not support either.

David Waymire
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:41am

Really? You want people to solicit campaign contributions to run for this spot? Are you nuts?

Thomas E Graham
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 9:53am

I am not nuts. Let's try to keep the conversation civil.
The election process is the most open and transparent apparatus we have. People are free to see which candidates are being supported by which businesses before casting their vote, which out of state PACs, etc... This "random selection" process makes the process more corruptible because instead of sunshine beating down on the candidates and their sponsors you have no sunshine on the government employee who decides which applications "qualify" for the the position. This condenses power into a very few thereby making it corruptible.

Ron
Thu, 10/25/2018 - 8:49am

Amen.

Matt
Tue, 10/23/2018 - 7:49pm

Zooman, it is the US constitution that delegates to the state legislatures to set the districts for US representatives. The State legislature districts are up of grabs as far as the US Const goes. I am confused how amending the Michigan Constitution amends the US Constitution? We'll see this in the Supreme court unless I'm not understanding something here?

Ryan
Wed, 10/24/2018 - 6:00am

Look at California. Hardly any of their districts have switched parties since the independent (liberal) commission took over redistricting. Don't believe it? Do some research. This to me seems much more corrupt than the current system.

Damon
Thu, 10/25/2018 - 9:15am

You want to be transparent? Ixnay redistricting altogether, add up the people's votes in each county and majority wins, period. Machines do the counting so it's not difficult to monitor the adding up of the votes.
People are tired of relying on representatives to vote in their favor at any level of government. If you really want to put the power in the "peoples" hands, put every election and every issue on a ballot and count the PEOPLES votes. Anything short of this is "corruptible".

Lyndia
Sun, 10/28/2018 - 1:09pm

Once again it looks like the change being made (a necessary change) has not be thought out. It sounds like we have to choose the lesser of two evils. Instead of giving us a "quick fix" it seems that the writers of this proposal could have put more thought into it. I don't like the gerrymandering but nor do I like Proposal 2 to become part of the State Constitution and not adding monetary ceilings. I am still at odds with this Proposal and am thankful I found this website that will give unbiased pros and cons.
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