COLUMN: Proposal 2 plan puts the power back in the hands of voters
Voters select politicians to represent them.
We’re taught this in high school government classes because it’s the bedrock of our representative democracy.
But what about when politicians get to choose their voters? Then you have Michigan politics.
Our elected officials are ineffective and inattentive. They pass laws voters don’t want. They cast votes that don’t matter. And thanks to redistricting our state politicians have become basically unaccountable to citizens.
In 2010, Republicans swept Michigan’s state House, Senate and gubernatorial races. This put them in a position to completely redraw Michigan’s voting districts.
And they did.
In 2011, Republicans controlled the state legislature and the governor’s office. This gave them the power to gerrymander every district in Michigan to benefit GOP candidates, while packing and splitting Democratic voters into a few districts to diminish their voting power.
They couldn’t do it alone.
Throughout the redistricting process, Republican strategists, lawyers and lawmakers frequently consulted the Michigan Redistricting Resource Institute.
MRRI, a non-profit which presents itself as “nonpartisan” and committed to all Michigan voters, was chaired, steered and paid for by executive members of Michigan’s Chamber of Commerce.
In 2011, private GOP consultants were paid $1 million by MRRI to draw political districts favoring Republicans. MRRI admitted in court and in documents uncovered in a lawsuit that it paid for 2,500 hours of legal consultation and mapmaking on behalf of Michigan Republicans.
The maps MRRI drew in private were voted on and approved in 12 days.
One of CMU’s Board of Trustees, Richard Studley has been the CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce since 2008.
Studley is an opponent of redistricting reform.
He refuses to confirm or deny if the Michigan Chamber of Commerce directly gave funds to MRRI.
The political district maps of Michigan are horribly slanted to favor Republicans.
If you don’t that believe, look at the 2014 election results. That year, Republicans won 48.85 percent to Democrats 51.15 percent of the vote. Logic would say Democrats would win more seats, but Republicans continued to hold their majority. They even won 4 additional seats.
How about 2016 when Republicans won 49.2 percent and Democrats won 49.1 percent of the vote. Republicans won 63 state House seats and Democrats won 47.
That’s the result of extreme gerrymandering.
This put Republicans in a position to constantly hold their majority, without a fear of being voted out of office for going against voters' wishes or passing unpopular legislation.
A 2012 voter referendum stripped emergency managers of some of their powers. Republicans then turned around and passed a revised version of the law essentially undoing what voters approved.
In 2012, a lame duck session passed the "Right to Work" law, which allows workers to opt out of paying their union dues. Lawmakers did this behind closed doors, with no input from voters, despite the vast unpopularity of the bill.
In 2015, they crippled voter medical marijuana ballot initiatives.
It doesn’t have to keep being this way. On Nov. 6 we get a chance to fix this.
Michigan’s ballot will have a proposal to amend the state constitution to prevent gerrymandering. The proposal establishes an Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission to redraw the state's voting districts. The commission will be made up of 13 members – four Democrats, four Republicans and five independent members. It also sets aside funding for hiring staff and consultants.
This won’t be some secret commission with no public accountability. The commission will be required to have a minimum of 15 public hearings throughout the redistricting process to assure transparency and seek public input.
This proposal takes the power of redistricting out of the hands of politicians – neither Republicans or Democrats will be able to use an unfair advantage.
This commission gives us back the power in out vote.
We’ll get to choose our representatives.
We’ll get will our democracy back.