When our group of everyday Michigan citizens decided to take on partisan gerrymandering, we started by having hundreds of thousands of conversations with voters as we collected signatures from Marquette to Muskegon to Monroe.
Michiganders across the political spectrum agreed that voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.
Thousands of Voters Not Politicians volunteers worked for months and millions of Michiganders voted to put an independent, transparent redistricting process into our constitution for one simple reason: Michiganders were no longer willing to tolerate a handful of politicians manipulating congressional and legislative districts behind closed doors.
This week, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will begin redrawing maps for seven state house districts, as ordered by a three-judge federal panel. In early February, the commission will accept public comment on the new maps.
The redistricting commission that Michigan voters established is required to draw and adopt maps that follow federal requirements, give historically marginalized voters the opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice, and remove partisan bias. That same commission is also responsible for correcting maps if a court finds that they don’t meet constitutional requirements.
I’ll be the first one to admit that this commission has faced some challenges. It’s not surprising that a group of everyday citizens, coming together from across our state to right decades of wrongs and do something that has never before been done in Michigan, might hit a bump or two. The fact that we are even aware of the challenges the commission has had to overcome stands in stark contrast to our previous system where voters had no insight whatsoever into the map drawing process.
Some argue that because of these challenges, this commission is not capable of doing this work. I wholeheartedly disagree. Michigan’s independent redistricting commission is capable of drawing maps that meet all of the constitutional criteria, and can overcome the challenges they face. When you hear an argument for taking the district-drawing pen away from the commission of citizens, check to see if it’s coming from someone who directly benefited from Michigan’s previous gerrymandering and would like nothing more than to put the fox back in charge of the henhouse.
The truth is that the transparency built into Michigan’s redistricting process gives all of us the opportunity and the responsibility to pay attention and participate. You can find the commission’s meeting schedule and published records of everything they do at michigan.gov/micrc.
You can follow along, share your thoughts, and if you live in one of the districts being redrawn, let the commission know about your community of interest. Remind them that the criteria spelled out in the constitution can all be followed, and that partisan fairness can be not only maintained but improved while providing fair representation.
We must remember, millions of Americans live in states that are gerrymandered by self-interested partisans and politicians (as we used to be) and can’t participate in their state’s redistricting process to make their voices heard. We must not allow biased politicians, current or former, to drag Michigan’s redistricting back behind closed doors. Michigan voters demanded better. We deserve better.
That’s why we voted for a system that allows all of us to watch and participate, and that’s why we must fight to maintain that process. Now as the commission goes back to the table to redraw some of our maps, it is our time to support and hold accountable our voter approved, constitutionally mandated Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
Jamie Lyons-Eddy is executive director of Voters Not Politicians.
This op-ed was originally published in The Detroit News. Read more here: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2024/01/18/lyons-eddy-redistricting-commission-can-overcome-challenges/72268825007/