After Long Fight, Anti-Gerrymandering Initiative Gets On Ballot In Michigan

Brynn Anderson/AP

After a months-long fight, an anti-gerrymandering initiative has officially been approved for the November ballot.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve the proposal by Voters Not Politicians, a citizens group. The effort grew out of a Facebook post by local activist Katie Fahey, who urged voters frustrated by sweeping Republican victories in the 2016 election to come together to “take on gerrymandering.” The all-volunteer ballot initiative ended up securing over 425,000 signatures in 110 days.

“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,” Fahey said in a statement on the Board of Canvassers vote. “Our polling and our volunteer signature collection and canvassing results show Michigan voters support our plan for a transparent, non-partisan, Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

A final decision on the legality of the proposed initiative is still pending in state Supreme Court. A group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, sued to block the initiative in May, claiming it made so many changes to the state constitution that it should require a constitutional convention.

The initiative proposes taking map-drawing control for both congressional and state legislative districts away from lawmakers. A citizens’ commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly chosen by the secretary of state would assume control of the process.

The commission would be required to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and other guidelines.

On June 7, the state court of appeals ruled 3-0 that CPMC’s complaint was “without merit” and that the proposal had a “single purpose”: ending partisan gerrymandering in the state. CPMC appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has yet to release a final ruling.

“We fully expect the Supreme Court will concur with the Court of Appeals that the pro-gerrymandering campaign to keep the Voters Not Politicians proposal off the ballot is without merit,” Fahey said in her statement.

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