Over the last five years, Michigan has become a centre of U.S. electoral reform. The state has abolished gerrymandering, enacted a slew of measures making it easier to vote, cracked down on voter suppression attempts, and imposed new financial disclosure requirements on politicians.
The moves to improve the democratic system were all enacted by using referenda to amend the state constitution. This has effectively allowed voters to bypass the legislature and break partisan gridlock.
The push to overturn gerrymandering, for instance, started with a Facebook post two days after the 2016 presidential election. Katie Fahey, then a 27-year-old working at a recycling non-profit, was alarmed at the angry arguments between friends on either side of the country’s political divide.
Ms. Fahey pulled together a campaign. Despite having no previous political-organizing experience, she and hundreds of freshly recruited volunteers managed to collect the 315,654 signatures necessary to trigger a statewide referendum. In 2018, the measure passed with 61 per cent of the vote. Michigan’s electoral districts are now drawn by an independent commission instead of by the state legislature.
Kim Murphy-Kovalick of Voters Not Politicians, the group Ms. Fahey set up for the anti-gerrymandering referendum, said much of that work is about ensuring that the measures passed by referendum are properly enforced. She is currently pushing for the new financial disclosure rules to also cover politicians’ immediate family members, as well as for freedom of information laws to be extended to cover the state legislature.
“The continued work we’re doing is so important to ensure that we don’t backslide on democracy in Michigan,” Ms. Murphy-Kovalick, 45, said.
This story was originally published by The Globe and Mail. Read more here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/us-politics/article-michigan-has-emerged-as-a-model-for-us-electoral-reform/