Anti-gerrymander group turns in signatures to get on Nov. ballot in Michigan

Anti-gerrymandering proposal moves forward

LANSING - The anti-gerrymandering group Voters Not Politicians turned in more than 425,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State Monday in an effort to recast how political district lines are drawn in the state.

Volunteers for the group have been ubiquitous across the state, collecting the necessary 315,654 petition signatures from registered Michigan voters that are needed to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot. With a cushion of more than 100,000 signatures, the group is confident that a review of the petitions will survive and the issue will get on the November 2018 ballot.

“The people of Michigan have come together to make it clear they want voters to choose their politicians, not the other way around,” said Katie Fahey, president of the group. “Michigan voters in November will have the opportunity to fix that system to bring transparency and accountability back into our democracy.”

The ballot proposal would change the Michigan constitution to create an independent citizen commission to draw political lines, taking the role away from the Legislature.

The proposal would establish a 13-member independent citizens commission on which independent voters would have five members, and Republican and Democratic parties would each have four.

Elected officials, lobbyists, party officials and other political insiders would be ineligible to serve on the commission, which would hold public hearings before approving proposed district maps by majority vote, with at least two votes required from each of the three groups represented on the commission.

Drawing of Michigan's electoral districts is now controlled by lawmakers who control the state Legislature, with disputes resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court, whose members run on a nonpartisan ballot but are nominated by state political parties.

The latest maps that defined the lines of congressional, state Senate and House of Representative districts, were done by Republicans after the 2010 Census. Some of the district lines were contorted into odd configurations, especially in metro Detroit, where the 14th Congressional District runs west from the Grosse Pointes, across Detroit and slanted north through Oakland County up through Pontiac.

Both legislative chambers, the governor's office and the Michigan Supreme Court have been controlled by Republicans in recent years and the GOP controlled the redistricting maps in 2010. Groups mostly associated with the Michigan Democratic Party have been pushing for change.

And that's the point Republicans emphasize in their opposition to the proposal, calling the Voters Not Politicians a "Democrat front group."

“The Michigan Democrat Party can’t win at the ballot box so they are trying to use ‘Voters not Politicians’ to change the rules," said Sarah Anderson, deputy chief of staff for the Michigan Republican Party. "To call this a non-partisan group is blatantly dishonest, and it’s simply an attempt by the Michigan Democrat Party to gerrymander our State constitution."

The Secretary of State review of the petition signatures will probably take at least three months, said department spokesman Fred Woodhams. The SOS already is reviewing two other petitions for ballot proposals: One that would repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law, which requires union scale wages be paid on publicly funded construction projects; and one that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

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© 2017, Detroit Free Press


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