Michigan court orders redistricting measure to go on ballot

Posted at 11:09 AM, Jun 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-08 11:09:53-04

The Michigan Court of Appeals ordered Thursday that an anti-political gerrymandering measure be placed on the November ballot, rejecting opponents' contention that the proposed constitutional amendment is too expansive and does not list all sections that would be abrogated.

The conservative group that sued vowed to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, which will have the final say.

In a 3-0 ruling, Judges Mark Cavanagh, Kirsten Frank Kelly and Karen Fort Hood wrote that the lawsuit "is without merit. The petition is not a general revision of the constitution, where it is narrowly tailored to address a single subject." They ruled that the amendment proposed by the ballot committee Voters Not Politicians would undeniably introduce new concepts to the constitution but would not "modify or interfere with the fundamental operation of government."

The proposal would empower an independent 13-member commission with drawing the state's congressional and legislative districts. The Legislature now does redistricting once a decade, which is subject to a gubernatorial veto and a possible legal challenge.

Gerrymandering has led to seats that are drawn to guarantee as many comfortable districts as possible for the party in power. The majority party was the GOP after the 2010 and 2000 population counts.

Under the initiative, a commission of citizens who meet certain qualifications would handle redistricting. There would be four Democrats, four Republicans and five members with no affiliation with either major party. The panel would be prohibited from providing a "disproportionate advantage" to a political party, using "accepted measures of partisan fairness."

Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, which has ties to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that it will appeal because the proposal is an "anti-democratic scheme that would completely silence the people's elected representatives and replace them with an unaccountable commission whose membership is based strictly on partisan preference."

The Board of State Canvassers has delayed putting the measure on the ballot due to the court challenge. Elections bureau staff estimate Voters Not Politicians submitted 394,000 valid signatures, more than the roughly 315,000 valid signatures needed to qualify.

Katie Fahey, the founder and executive director of the ballot drive, said in a statement that "pro-gerrymandering groups" should let voters vote on the issue.

"We believe that given a choice between the status quo our opposition favors, where politicians and lobbyists operate behind closed doors to manipulate districts for partisan benefit, and our proposal — which puts citizens in charge and mandates full transparency with the public — voters will support Voters Not Politicians in November," she said.