The redistricting reform amendment includes a set of strict criteria to replace the loose guidelines that were previously followed by politicians. This set of criteria ensures that the Commission does not manipulate election map lines with partisan bias.
Michigan voters deserve election maps that represent them, not politicians or special interests. The redistricting reform amendment includes three major safeguards to protect the final election maps.
The process is transparent. Instead of maps being drawn behind closed doors, the Commission must operate in an open process that welcomes public input. Everything used to draw the maps, including computer software and data, must be published publicly so Michiganders know exactly why the Commission draw election map lines.
The process is fair, because it removes the people with the most conflict of interest and motivation to draw maps that give them unfair advantages and puts voters in charge of the process.
The process is impartial. The Commission is required to follow a strict set of criteria. These rules must be followed in the order of priority that they are listed in and will guide the Commission to draw maps that represent Michigan citizens.
Criteria A: Federal Laws
The Commission must follow all federal laws related to redistricting.
All districts must contain close to an equal number of Michiganders to meet the “equal population” requirement in the U.S. Constitution.
One of the federal laws every map is required to follow is the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court established a three-part test to measure if a district dilutes minority votes in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Criteria B: Contiguous
Each district must be contiguous, which means that a district cannot be physically disconnected at any point.
Criteria C: Communities of Interest
The Commission is required to hold a series of public hearings to get feedback from real Michigan citizens about what they feel their shared values – also known as communities of interest – are. Commissioners will draw district lines while keeping shared cultural, historical, or economic interests in mind based on the feedback they receive from the public.
At least 24 other states across the country consider these communities of interest when drawing election maps in order to keep groups of people who share similar needs, cultures, and interests together. This helps keep these groups’ collective voices together and represented by the same elected representative.
For example, the Commission may learn that corn and livestock farmers in southern Michigan consider themselves a community with similar economic interests, and want to be represented together so their elected official can advocate for solutions that meet their collective needs. Parents and teachers may also advocate that their school districts be kept together and represented by a single elected official instead of several state Representatives like many school districts are today.
Criteria D: No Party Advantage
The Commission cannot draw maps where a district gives an unfair or disproportionate advantage to any political party. Commissioners will use an acceptable measure of partisan fairness in order to measure if its district maps are fair or if they give an unfair partisan advantage. While the U.S. Supreme Court Gill v. Whitford case made the “efficiency gap” a well-known measure of partisan fairness, there are several measures that the Commission can choose. As an example, the Citizen Research Council used three measures to analyze Michigan’s current level of partisan bias in a recent report.
The Commission can use these measures or others to determine whether the maps they propose will be likely to give any party more representatives than they should receive based on the statewide percentage of votes. Applying these tests to their draft maps will allow the Commission to make sure that no party will receive a disproportionate advantage.
Criteria E: No Favor or Disfavor for Incumbents and Candidates
The Commission cannot draw maps that favor or disfavor an incumbent, elected official, or candidate. Right now, politicians meet behind closed doors to draw safe seats for themselves and their peers, allowing them to stack the deck in their favor by picking and choosing their voters. Some may also get creative and “hijack” incumbents from their home districts and put them in districts with another incumbent or candidate from their party. Politicians have also been known to “kidnap” incumbents by drawing lines around their home address, effectively relocating them to a new district where they have less support.
These creative ways of manipulating maps are prohibited by this criteria.
Criteria F: Boundaries
The Commission must consider existing political boundaries when drawing maps, including city and county lines.
Criteria G: Compact
Finally, the Commission must draw districts that are reasonably compact. It will be up to the commissioners to decide how they will measure compactness. Currently, 37 states require their legislative districts to be “reasonably compact” and 18 states require congressional districts to be compact as well.
The Commission doesn’t just have to say they followed this set of criteria. According to our solution, Commissioners are required to publicly present and publish why and how they drew maps that met these criteria, so that Michigan voters can be sure their new set of election maps are fair and impartial.