Voters Not Politicians is a grassroots group who, in 2018, passed the constitutional amendment to take politicians out of the redistricting process and put the people in charge through an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. One of the founding principles of the Commission laid out in the policy is that the Commission is independent from partisan influence or manipulation. The Commission is balanced by nature with Michiganders from across the political spectrum who ultimately have to come to a widely-accepted conclusion. Commission members must also be selected in a process insulated from manipulation by partisan sources.
That’s why a large portion of our amendment to end gerrymandering in Michigan specifies exactly how the final 13 Commission members will be chosen. We’re here to break it down step by step to show you how we’ve maximized transparency and independence while minimizing any political parties’ ability to manipulate and corrupt the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
First, we start with how voters apply. There are two application streams to ensure that a fair representation of Michiganders apply to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
An open application process begins at the beginning of each decade. This application process is available to any registered Michigan voter. The Secretary of State’s office will also mail applications to a minimum of 10,000 randomly selected Michigan voters. The Secretary of State does not get to pick and choose who receives these applications and must use a list of 10,000+ randomly generated voters.
The two application streams exist for two key reasons. First, it balances the applicant pool and opens the opportunity to people who may not be “in the know” or aware that this civic duty is available. Second, it ensures that a robust sample is invited to apply that is representative of Michigan’s population and distribution.
The application process requires that each applicant self-identify on the legal application with one of the two major political parties or “Unaffiliated” if they identify with a third party or as an Independent.
Then, the Secretary of State’s office collects and verifies each application to ensure they meet the necessary requirements. This is also the step where the Secretary of State’s office disqualifies applications based on a set of disqualification rules outlined in the policy. Applicants who are disqualified include current or past elected officials, lobbyists, and other political influencers.
After the Secretary of State has verified each application based on requirements outlined in the Constitution, they will then weight each application based on geography and demographics, as outlined in the policy. By weighting the applications, the Secretary of State prepares the pool of applications for a random selection that ensures that the final pool matches Michigan’s geographic and demographic makeup as closely as possible. This prevents the majority of Commissioners coming from just one city or a single profession. The weighting process helps ensure a Commission that looks and thinks like the state of Michigan with representation from real Michiganders, unlike the current system which only includes the voices and perspectives of politicians and political consultants.
Once the applications are weighted, a random selection process generates a pool of 200 applications. 100 of these applications are from the open application process (30 Republicans, 30 Democrats, and 40 “Unaffiliated”) and the other 100 are from the randomly mailed invitation process (30 Republicans, 30 Democrats, and 40 “Unaffiliated”). This ensures that one party or special interest group cannot flood the open application process to manipulate the final Commission body.
Why a random selection process instead of an interview selection process? Identifying an unbiased panel of interviewers to conduct these interviews in Michigan is more difficult than predicting the weather in March! Introducing any level of judgment or control is an invitation from one or both parties to attempt influencing or unfairly biasing the process. By using a random selection process, the Commission is protected from a layer of political manipulation. The bucket of 200 applicants will also accurately represent the demographic distribution of the mitten’s population.
Once the application pool is narrowed down to 200 randomly selected applications, the majority and minority party leaders in each of the state legislative bodies (4 total) are allowed to “strike” up to 5 applications. This allows party leaders to remove a limited number of applicants who may unfairly influence the redistricting process if they served on the Commission.
Then, the remaining applications are split into 3 pools – Republican*, Democrat*, and Unaffiliated (applicants who did not identify with either of the two major parties).
A transparent and random selection process administered by the Secretary of State then yields the final 13 Commissioners – 4 Republicans*, 4 Democrats*, and 5 Unaffiliated.
The selection process – from the 2 streams of applications to the random selection process used to narrow down the pool – is intended to minimize the possibility of partisan interference or influence on the selection of Commission members. Those final 13 members will be responsible for drawing the next set of election maps using the criteria and requirements outlined in the policy, which further expand on the transparency and independence of the Commission. The ultimate map must be available for public comment over the course of 45 days and approved by a majority of the Commission, including two members from each major party and two Unaffiliated members.
Protecting the Commission from partisan manipulation or influence while ensuring the Commission makeup reflects real Michiganders from across the state were cornerstones in the policy development. These key pieces were reflected in thousands of survey results collected during 33 town halls held in March 2017.
Voters, not politicians should be in charge of democracy in Michigan, starting with the responsibility for drawing our election maps. Here’s how you can help implement the independent and transparent process that voters across Michigan passed in 2018:
Donate // the politicians and special interests who benefit from the current system will spend millions defending and protecting their unfair advantage. We have to fight back, and that costs money. Donate to Voters Not Politicians here.
Volunteer // if you are interested in being a part of this vital process, please click here.
Stay educated // learn more about gerrymandering and how you can defeat it! Stay up to date on Voters Not Politicians updates and news by signing up for our newsletter here.
*Or the two political parties with the largest representation in the state legislature.