The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nonpartisan-redistricting measure makes Michigan ballot

Protesters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Placeholder while article actions load

Michigan voters will decide this year whether to let a citizens redistricting commission draw state legislative and congressional maps, a victory for anti-gerrymandering campaigners who fought in court to keep the measure on the ballot.

“We look forward to being on the ballot in November and giving voters a chance to change our current system, where politicians and lobbyists operate behind closed doors to draw district lines for partisan gain,” said Voters Not Politicians founder Katie Fahey in a statement, after the state approved ballot language for November.

“Our polling and our volunteer signature collection and canvassing results show Michigan voters support our plan for a transparent, nonpartisan, Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

Voters Not Politicians had collected more than 425,000 signatures (315,654 were required) for a measure that would amend Michigan’s constitution by taking redistricting out of the state legislature and handing it to a 13-member commission — four Republicans, four Democrats, and three unaffiliated voters. Members of that commission could not include elected officials; anyone serving on the commission would be barred from seeking office until at least five years after their work was complete.

By making the ballot, Fahey’s group added to a run of successes for anti-gerrymandering campaigners. In Pennsylvania, the 2018 election will be carried out on new maps drawn by the state’s Supreme Court, after liberal activists successfully sued to scrap a map that favored Republicans. Last month, Ohio voters passed Issue One, a ballot measure that was eventually backed by both parties, created a process for independent redistricting in the event that legislators could not get a bipartisan majority for their preferred map. Both the Michigan and Ohio campaigns gathered many of their signatures at rallies held after President Trump’s inauguration.

Redistricting campaigners were dealt a setback by the U.S. Supreme Court, which punted a lawsuit against Wisconsin’s map back to lower courts. But Michigan, along with North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, was one of the biggest targets of liberals frustrated by Republican-drawn maps. While Republicans narrowly won the state in 2016, the map drawn in 2011 gave Republicans 64 percent of Michigan’s congressional seats — nine of 14.

The process of redrawing district lines to give an advantage to one party over another is called "gerrymandering." Here's how it works. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)