FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Michigan’s redistricting reform amendment provides an exciting opportunity to engage the people of Michigan in a fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process. Voters overwhelmingly decided to take the power of drawing our election district maps out of the hands of politicians and special interests and give it to the people through an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
This process is new and unique to Michigan, so we know there will be questions along the way. Click on a frequently asked question below to learn more. You can read the full amendment language at here.
If you have any concerns or feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Redistricting is the process of redrawing election district boundaries.
- The federal Constitution requires states to redistrict every 10 years following the census, so that their election districts have equal population
- Michigan has 3 sets of election district maps - a Congressional district map, a State Senate districts map, and a State House districts map.
- When you vote on Election Day, the candidates you vote for are determined by the district you live in.
- All states must follow federal standards including equal population and the Voting Rights Act when drawing election district maps. As long as they follow those standards, each state has the right to determine how to draw its maps.
- Most states give their state legislatures and governor the power to redistrict. The approved maps are then enacted into law.
- Gerrymandering is when those in charge use the redistricting process to draw district maps to give one political party an unfair advantage. Politicians, special interest groups, and their highly paid consultants use big data and highly-advanced computer algorithms to predict how voters will vote in future elections based on demographic, socioeconomic, and past voting patterns data. Then they meet behind closed doors to manipulate election district maps that give their party, preferred candidates, and incumbents unfair advantages in the next decade of elections.
- The term “gerrymandering” comes from a set of election maps drawn in 1812 in Massachusetts that then-Governor Elbridge Gerry approved. The Boston Gazette named the contorted “salamander” shape of a Massachusetts’ state senate district after Gerry. Governor Gerry knew that these maps unfairly benefited his party, but approved them anyway.
- Due to increasingly sophisticated software and the large amounts of demographic, socioeconomic, and voting patterns data available to politicians and their consultants, modern-day gerrymandering allows a party to durably lock in advantages for itself with unprecedented precision. So, even when an election sees massive changes in the votes a party receives, there can be zero change in the number of seats that party wins. Gerrymandering causes a broken democracy where votes don’t matter and voters aren’t heard.
- Before voters approved the redistricting reform amendment approved through Proposal 2-2018 to take politicians out of redistricting, Michigan consistently ranked as one of the worst “gerrymandered” states in the country.
Applying to Serve on the Commission
- Michigan’s Commission will have 13 members: 4 members from each of the two largest political parties (currently Republicans and Democrats) and 5 members who are not affiliated with either major party.
- The Secretary of State will mail applications to at least 10,000 randomly selected registered voters that reflect the demographic and geographic makeup of Michigan. Also, any registered Michigan voter can apply to serve on the Commission (even if they did not receive an application by mail).
- The application form may ask for things like name, address where registered to vote, basic demographic information, and political party affiliation.
- From the qualified applicants, the Secretary of State’s office will randomly select 200 semifinalists: 60 Republicans, 60 Democrats, and 80 who are not affiliated with those parties. These applicants will be selected from demographic and geographic categories so that when the 200 finalists are drawn randomly, they will reflect the geographic and demographic makeup of Michigan. The 4 legislative leaders -- the majority and minority leaders in the Michigan House and Senate -- will each be able to strike up to 5 applications, for a total of 20 strikes among them from the pool of 200.
- The Secretary of State will then oversee the random selection of the final 13 Commission members from the remaining pool of applicants. The Secretary will not have any independent influence on who is selected.
- Click here to read more about the selection process.
- Any registered voter in Michigan can serve on the Commission, except people who are disqualified because they fall into one of the narrow categories spelled out in the Constitution.
- Those who are disqualified stand to gain an unfair advantage if maps are drawn a certain way versus another, so preventing them from serving on the Commission protects the fairness and impartiality of the redistricting process.
- A person is barred from serving on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission if in the past 6 years that person has been:
- A candidate or elected official of a partisan federal, state, or local office.
- An officer or member of the leadership of a national, state, or local political party.
- A paid consultant or employee of an elected official, a candidate, or a political action committee (PAC).
- An employee of the legislature.
- Registered as a lobbyist agent with the Michigan Bureau of Elections, or an employee of a registered lobbyist agent.
- A certain type of political appointee that is not subject to civil service classification (uncommon).
- Any parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, or spouse of any of the above disqualified persons.
- You can find the disqualifications in Section 6, part 1 (B) of the proposal language.
- Disqualified persons may still take an active part in the process by giving input and submitting proposed maps to the Commission, even if they cannot serve on the Commission.
- Yes! In fact, ordinary Michiganders are in a much better position to draw election district maps than politicians, who have a conflict of interest in the process and outcome.
- The #1 job of Commissioners is to listen to the public about where the boundaries of their communities are. With the help of experts and consultants hired by the Commission, they will use that feedback to draw maps that reflect and respect Michigan’s communities.
- Politicians relied on consultants and experts when they had the power to draw the maps. Under our redistricting reform amendment, the Commission will have the resources to hire expert consultants and experts to assist with drawing maps. These consultants may include demographers, computer programmers, and legal experts. The difference is that under the redistricting reform amendment, the Commission must make public who it hires, what the consultants and experts recommend, and why the Commission makes the decisions it does.
- Unlike politicians, ordinary citizens don’t have a personal stake in how election maps are drawn. They are not faced with the choice of drawing districts one way versus another to give themselves an unfair advantage in their next election.
- Citizen commissions in other states have been extremely successful! A citizen commission drew California’s maps in 2011. Not only were the maps drawn and approved on time, but they also stood up against legal challenges.
- Commissioners will serve until the new voting maps have been adopted and any judicial review of the maps has concluded. That is likely to be 2 to 3 years. A new Commission will form every 10 years, just before each census.
Policies vary from case to case. If you have questions about your pension or other benefits, please consult your plan representative.
Disqualifications pertaining to parties include:
– An elected official to partisan federal, state, or local office; or
– An officer or member of the governing body of a national, state, or local political party;
Partisan convention delegates are eligible to serve if they are not otherwise disqualified. Convention delegates are neither of the criteria above, because the position of convention delegate is not an elected "office." They are not on a ballot or governed by state election law (unlike precinct delegates); and convention delegates are not "officers" of the party in the sense that they do not have governing authority over the party itself.
The Map Drawing Process
- The Commission is required to follow a set of strict criteria that are listed in the Constitution itself. Districts must satisfy the following criteria, which are ranked most to least important:
- Equal population
- Compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act
- A single, continuous shape (one district cannot consist of separate shapes that are not connected to each other)
- Respect Michigan’s communities, like school districts, agricultural regions, and more, based on input from the public on where the boundaries of existing communities are
- Not give an unfair advantage to any political party, politician or candidate (no partisan gerrymandering)
- Take into account existing boundaries such as cities, townships, and counties, and be reasonably compact.
- The Commission will have funds appropriated by the legislature to hire experts and consultants to help them draw the maps.
- Commissioners will hold public hearings across the state to hear how communities of interest (see question below) want to be represented in districts. Members of the public will also be able to submit comments, concerns, feedback, and even potential maps for consideration online. Hearings will also be held after the maps are drawn to show exactly what factors went into their development and gather feedback before the final votes. All of the information that goes into the decisions – including the data and computer algorithms used – will be available to the public.
- A community of interest is a geographically connected group of people with shared social or economic interests. They can be based on local economies, school districts, cultural ties, or other characteristics. At least 24 other states – both with independent commissions and without – incorporate communities of interest when they draw election maps.
- The public will tell the Commission how they want their communities defined through a series of public hearings and online before any maps are drawn. The Commission will then use this information to determine how communities will be incorporated into the district maps.
- The final maps must be approved by a simple majority of Commission members, meaning a total of at least 7 Commissioners must vote yes. The Commission must also have consensus across party lines; at least two Republicans, two Democrats, and two Commissioners who identify with neither party must vote yes for the final maps to be approved. This prevents one or two groups from joining together to push through maps that favor a party or politician.
- If the required majority can’t agree on a set of maps, the Commissioners may submit proposed maps, and the Commission will use a ranking system to select the final set of maps. In the unlikely event that this backup method does not produce a final map, a final map will be randomly selected by the Michigan Supreme Court from the maps submitted by the Commissioners.
- Late 2019 (no later than January 1, 2020) - Applications to serve on the Commission will be available online and mailed out by the Secretary of State
- June 1, 2020 - Application process closes
- August 1, 2020 - Legislative leaders strike up to 20 applicants
- September 1, 2020 - Final 13 Commission members randomly selected
- October 15, 2020 - Commission convenes
- January 1 to November 1, 2021- Commission holds public meetings
- Approx. February 1, 2021 - Census data becomes available
- November 1, 2021 - Commission adopts final set of maps
- August 2, 2022 - First statewide primary with new election maps
- November 8, 2022 - First general election with the new maps takes place
- The new redistricting process that Michigan voters approved in 2018 is truly, “Of, for, and by the people.”
- The Commission will be made up of real, everyday Michiganders who come from various communities and backgrounds that make up our state. The application selection process uses statistical weighting techniques to ensure Commissioners are selected from diverse geographic locations and demographic groups.
- The process by which the Commission draws the maps is citizen-centered.
- Commissioners will hold at least 10 public hearings across the state before maps are drafted to learn from the public where the boundaries of Michigan’s communities are.
- The Constitutional amendment requires the Commission to take the public’s input into account and draw maps that reflect and respect Michigan’s communities, rather than split them apart like gerrymandered maps often do.
- After the Commission drafts maps based on the public input it received, it is required to hold at least another 5 public hearings to gather more feedback from citizens, before it may vote to adopt final maps.
- The Commission must explain its reasons for adopting the final set of maps.
- Any member of the public is able to submit online, by mail, or in person, comments, concerns, feedback, and proposed maps for the Commission to consider.
- All of the information that goes into the Commission’s decisions – including the data and computer algorithms used – must be made available to the public.
- First, politicians, special interest groups, and people with the biggest conflict of interest cannot serve on the Commission.
- Second, the Commission will be comprised of members of the two major parties and those who belong to neither of those parties. These three groups must compromise and reach consensus to approve final maps. They must also reach consensus for important decisions such as who to hire.
- Third, the Commission is required to follow a strict set of criteria when drawing the maps and cannot give a disproportionate advantage to any party or candidate.
- Finally, the Commission must conduct its business publicly and must publish everything used to draw the maps, including the data and computer software used, and explain its reasons for adopting the final maps.
Protecting an Impartial Commission
- The Secretary of State’s role is purely administrative.
- The Secretary of State will provide registered voters with applications, mail invitations to 10,000 randomly selected voters representative of Michigan, eliminate applicants who are disqualified based only on the objective criteria in the policy, and conduct a random selection process to determine the final set of Commissioners.
- The Secretary of State will not be able to interfere with or influence the map-drawing process.
- The Amendment contains multiple safeguards to prevent current and future legislatures and governors from interfering with the redistricting process. For example, the proposal prevents state officials from withholding funds or taking away the Commission’s powers, or transferring those powers to another department. In addition, the governor cannot veto the final maps approved by the Commission.
- The courts can review the final maps if there is a challenge. However, only the Commission has the power to make the necessary changes in the event of a successful challenge. The courts will never redraw the maps (which is currently a common practice around the country for legislatively-drawn maps).
- The only role of the judiciary is to randomly select a map from those drafted with public input by the commission in the event of a tie.
- Michigan doesn’t require party registration when voters register to vote. Therefore, each applicant must identify which party (or neither party) they affiliate with. Applicants must do this under oath in the presence of a notary.
- If someone is trying to game the system, they won’t be able to do it in secret like our legislators do now. The new process is transparent to make sure maps are drawn impartially.
- The Commissioners must conduct their business in public, must follow specific criteria in the map drawing process, and must reach a consensus among Commissioners from all three groups (Republicans, Democrats, and those who belong to neither party) to vote for a final set of maps.
- Safeguards are also built into the Commissioner selection process. Commissioners are selected using a random selection process. The odds of an applicant who lies about their party affiliation being selected is remote. And if somehow such an applicant made it to the pool of finalists, he or she may be eliminated by legislative leaders (through their limited strikes) before final selection.
- The experience of other redistricting commissions shows that voters who are entrusted with redistricting take their duties extremely seriously.
- If necessary, the Commission can remove a Commissioner for substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in ofﬁce, or inability to perform the duties of the ofﬁce. Removal requires support from 10 of the 13 Commissioners.
Yes! Click here to learn more on Ballotpedia about which states have independent redistricting commissions and how they operate.
- The Commission will have its own budget equal to, but separate from, 25% of the Secretary of State’s general fund budget. Based on 2018 budget figures, that’s about $4.6 million for each year the Commission is active.
- The amendment requires the Commission to submit an annual report on its expenditures to the legislature and governor’s office. The Commission’s expenditures are also subject to audit and any funds it does not use must be returned to the state.