Michigan politicians, others react to Supreme Court redistricting decision

The Voters Not Politicians proposal to have an independent commission, rather than politicians, draw legislative lines has drawn passionate responses.

Related: Here’s how Michigan’s redistricting commission would work
Related: Michigan redistricting ballot language rejects partisan phrasings

The Michigan Supreme Court decided late Tuesday to keep a proposal to change the way Michigan draws voting district lines on the November ballot in 4-3 decision released late Tuesday night.  

The decision came after months of contentious legal proceedings which kept the proposal, by the group Voters Not Politicians, in limbo. The opposition group, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution,  unsuccessfully argued that the measure was too broad to legally go before voters. Instead, that group argued it would require a constitutional convention in order to make the changes.

Here’s what those involved in the redistricting fight, legal experts and others had to say about Tuesday night’s Supreme Court decision.

Katie Fahey, founder and executive director of the redistricting reform group, Voters Not Politicians: “It’s time voters choose their politicians, not the other way around. Our volunteers, donors and partners are ecstatic that our proposal will be on the ballot Nov. 6.”

Voters Not Politicians

Director Katie Fahey: “Our state Constitution begins with, ‘All political power is inherent in the people.’ The court’s decision upholds our right as citizens to petition our government for positive change. Hundreds of thousands of voters signed their name to have the chance to vote to bring the redistricting process out in the open. Michigan voters are ready for a transparent redistricting process, where election district lines represent the people - not special interests. It’s time voters choose their politicians, not the other way around. Our volunteers, donors and partners are ecstatic that our proposal will be on the ballot Nov. 6.”

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (anti-Voters Not Politicians)

Spokesman Dave Doyle: “We’re disappointed with the decision, we think the court got it wrong. But we respect their decision and this was the right place to have the decision made, in the Court.”

Michigan Chamber of Commerce (funded opposition court fight)

President and CEO Rich Studley: "The Michigan Chamber is very disappointed with the State Supreme Court decision that the redistricting ballot proposal met the legal requirements to appear on the November General Election ballot. Unfortunately, Michiganders are now left to wonder what the rules are for future petition drives and ballot proposals.”

Chamber General Counsel Jim Holcomb: “We accept the Court’s decision and the Michigan Chamber will take no further legal action regarding this ballot proposal."

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Markman

In a dissenting opinion: "The 'people' would find 'fundamentally redefining' a restructuring of their Constitution that deprived them and their chosen representatives of any role in the foundational process of our system of self-government-- the process by which election districts are established, citizens are joined together or separated by political boundaries, and the building blocks of our governing institutions are determined. Inserted in place is the governance of 13 randomly selected 'people' entirely lacking in any democratic or electoral relationship with the other 10 million 'people' of this state or their elected representatives." 

Experts

Michael Li, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice: “If you read the opinion it’s very clear that the argument (against VNP) was pretty frivolous. But they go to great lengths to show why it’s frivolous and why this ballot initiative is wholly consistent with the long tradition of ballot initiatives in Michigan....

“This a very conservative opinion by a Republican judge doing what Chief Justice (John) Roberts always says justices should do: call balls and strikes and not be activists. And this is a prototypical balls and strikes opinion.”

Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan: “Given our reading of the constitution and our understanding of past cases in this area I’m not surprised that they affirmed the Court of Appeals and found that this qualifies as an amendment and not a revision.

“(I’m not surprised) for the reason that they list at the outset — (the proposal) solitary in its purpose, singular in its purpose. And while it is long, that length all pertains to the single subject of creating a commission to carry out this task. The comparison is from one constitutional provision to another proposed provision, and the ad hoc system that was created because of the unconstitutional nature of the 1963 Constitution is external to this consideration.”

Politicians

Gretchen Whitmer, former state Senate Minority Leader from East Lansing and Democratic candidate for governor (via Twitter): “This is fantastic news! We’re one step closer to ending gerrymandering in Michigan. I’ll be voting YES on Proposal 2! ✔️”

Shri Thanedar, Democratic candidate for governor (via Twitter): "Despite the Republicans and Bill Schuette's attempted sabotage, Michiganders will have the chance to take back ahold of our democracy in November and end the partisan stranglehold on redistricting."

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield (14th Congressional District) (via Twitter): “Big news! As the Congresswoman from one of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, I’m pleased the people of Michigan will finally have a say.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint:  "This is a big win for voters in Michigan. No one feels the repercussions of gerrymandering more than those of us in the Senate – we are one of the most sliced and diced legislative bodies in this country and constituents across the state suffer because of it. Now voters get to decide to put an end to Republicans fixing the game.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing (via Twitter): “I’ll say that I’m surprised. I thought the unethical pressure from certain groups in town was going to tank this. In the end the voters will decide not the special interests.”

State Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, and a candidate for the U.S. House in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District (via Twitter): “Congratulations, voters! Special interests tried to sue you away, but you beat them. Now we can end gerrymandering with our votes. We’re one step closer to fair representation!”

Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus (via Twitter): “Elections should be fair, & lawmakers should reflect the views & values of the people they represent. Working families are sick of their voices getting drowned out by #gerrymandering, & tonight’s @MISupremeCourt ruling lets Michiganders decide for themselves this November! #mileg”

Consultants, commentators, celebrities

GOP political consultant John Yob (via Twitter)“Congratulations to Michigan voters and the Michigan Supreme Court for not bowing to pressure from the big business lobbyists at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.”

“I oppose any #MIGOP redistricting effort that includes the involvement of Michigan Chamber of Commerce political operatives. Their involvement risks any fair analysis.”

Mark Brewer, attorney and former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party (via Twitter): “Next big fight: ballot summary which can make or break a proposal.”

“What will be the political fallout for @migop Justice Clement who abandons @migop, ⁦@michamber⁩, ⁦@DickDeVos⁩, ⁦⁦@SchuetteOnDuty⁩ et al in this case and who faces voters in the fall? Should be an interesting @migop state convention”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former California governor (via Twitter): "I want to congratulate the people of Michigan for the great choice of the great vote of the Supreme Court to let the people move forward with the initiative and to have redistricting happening in Michigan. Because it's the voters versus the politicians. That's what this is all about. You've got to go vote for the voters, not the politicians."

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (via Twitter): "Michigan Supreme Court: voters will get a chance to end partisan gerrymandering and vote for fair maps. This is a big win. Citizens will choose their representatives, politicians will not pick their voters - if the ballot measure is passed."

 

Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a free-market advocacy group: “Today we’ve witnessed the rule of bullying, not the rule of law.”

Interest and advocacy groups

Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a free-market advocacy group with ties to the DeVos family (in an email statement): “Today we’ve witnessed the rule of bullying, not the rule of law. In the face of threats, bullying and intimidation, the Justices of the state Supreme Court bowed to political pressure instead of protecting Michigan’s Constitution. They have abdicated their responsibility to the rule of law.”

Josh Silver, director of Represent.Us, a Massachusetts-based group advocating for national elections reform that bought an ad campaign targeting the Michigan Chamber of Commerce for its support of Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (in an email statement): “This court case exposed the true role of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce: a front group for big corporations that prefer a rigged political system that works for them, no matter how much it hurts everyday people. … The Chamber of Commerce is lying about their position. They actively support establishment politicians carving up congressional districts in order to protect incumbents and prevent competition. Fortunately, the public interest prevailed today, but we must not ignore that the Chamber and their allies will continue to undermine the will of the people.”

Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause, a government reform advocacy group (in an email statement): “We are thrilled that the Michigan Supreme Court has respected the will of the 425,000 Michiganders who signed a petition to place the Voters Not Politicians initiative on the ballot. This all-volunteer effort started so citizens could end a corrupt system in which self-interested politicians manipulate districts for political advantage behind closed doors. Now Michigan voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard.”

Bridge Magazine reporter Lindsay VanHulle contributed to this report.

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Comments

Pat O'Brien
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 1:03am

"In the face of threats, bullying and intimidation, the Justices of the state Supreme Court bowed to political pressure instead of protecting Michigan’s Constitution. They have abdicated their responsibility to the rule of law.”

Justice Viviano wrote a majority opinion because he felt "bull[ied]." Sure, Tony. That's it.

Miserable argument.

Anonymous
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 5:17am

Unbelievable that "special interest groups" with fancy names are fronts for the Republican party. Michigan Freedom Fund and Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, actively working to protect their unfair advantage in our state. I am so glad that our State Supreme court upheld the citizens' right to decide if we want to put an end to gerrymandering in our state.

Dan Moerman
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 7:25am

Hey, Bridge: Time for an in depth consideration of just who and what is the "Michigan Chamber of Commerce." Sounds so sort of ... simple, middle of the road. . . until we hear what they have to say about things. Who are these people? Who puts up the money? What is their history? Do they really have anything to do with "commerce?" or are they just a right wing Koch-funded apparat?

Kathy Schurr
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 2:06pm

I'd like to know the answers to your questions, too. It doesn't sound like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce represents the interest of the people of Michigan (maybe just business).

Anonymous
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 6:19pm

They are merely a front for the Republican Party.

Bob Dunn
Sun, 08/05/2018 - 9:18am

The Chamber is no than a PAC for the Republican Party.

Arjay
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 8:58am

Once again, shown by who it contacted for comments, Bridge proudly shows that it is a mouthpiece for the Michigan Democratic Party.

Rick
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 5:40pm

'..Bridge proudly shows that it is a mouthpiece for the Michigan Democratic Party.'

'Bridge proudly shows that it believes in democracy' Fixed that for you.

Rick
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 5:42pm

'..Bridge proudly shows that it is a mouthpiece for the Michigan Democratic Party.'

'Bridge proudly shows that it believes in democracy' Fixed that for you.

Maureen
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 9:17pm

Just what I was thinking. Not sure how I feel about the issue, and I can't trust Bridge to provide objective coverage.

Cool Papa
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 10:27am

Bridge has done an excellent job of covering this important issue with fairness and accuracy. Job well done!

David Schopp
Wed, 08/01/2018 - 9:06pm

Wow, a significant victory for the people. I wrongly predicted that they would find a way to find it unconditional. now the big money will come in to recommend "that all of our proposals should be voted down", Just vote on all . .

Mike_Watza
Thu, 08/02/2018 - 1:10am

A very nice, very rare win of late, for ALL the people. Thank you to the S Ct and all that support this effort to return Michigan to ALL the voters.

duane
Thu, 08/02/2018 - 5:54pm

Just another loss to politics of another change for change sake that will have no material affect our Michigan voters. It removes a responsibility from elected officials, that they are held accountable for by election, and create another body/staff that are none elect to control part of our election process.

If you disagree, describe a specific even or action that 'gerrymandering' created that has harmed our political system, or how it prevented the counting of a single vote, or how it will slow or decrease the spending on campaigns. Or will you like other proponents simply quietly slink away when ask to demonstrate impact? I have heard the petition circulators tell me 'gerrymandering' is not 'right', not 'fair', and then ignore the question of describing something tangible to that proves their claim, I have asked this of proponents on Bridge, getting a lot of hemming and hawing but no examples.

There has been 'gerrymandering' for over 200 years and we have the longest lasting government, we have the most abundant country, we have the have liberty for all [greater than any other country], we have a country where trivial things such as voting on 'gerrymandering' become headline political events. Can you even describe how our politics/political process will provide better governing, better officials, better candidates?

JMJR
Fri, 08/17/2018 - 5:01pm

Really, no one replied to this?
Duane you try to make the case that gerrymandering is OK because we have always had it and our Democracy has survived. Well, our Democracy was designed to be representative of the "people's" wishes and gerrymandering throughout the country is designed to defeat that goal.
Michigan has a roughly 50-50 split between Dems and Repubs voters but the Congressional seats are divided 9-5 for Republicans because of gerrymandering which is not representative. Same in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio and many other states. Basically, because of this gerrymandering, politicians no longer have to answer to the voters. They now answer to their political party or the lobbyist and PAC's that feed them money. The people are shut out of the process!
The result of this a middle/lower class that has no voice. Taxes, government programs and votes on important issues are made without considering the impact on the majority of the people. This is demonstrated by the shift in wealth to the same donors who back these politicians. We currently have a government that was elected by a minority in all 3 branches. How has that worked out for the average person? I would argue not well and it seems to get worse all the time.