Group shifts focus to community mapping, engaging Communities of Interest
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–U.S. District Judge Janet Neff today dismissed the lawsuits attacking the voter-approved constitutional amendment that established the Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The amendment puts voters – not politicians – in charge of drawing state Legislative and U.S. Congressional election maps through a fair, impartial, and transparent process, with robust public input.
“Michigan’s Constitution begins with, ‘All political power is inherent in the people.’ The courts have vindicated the people’s right to use our political power to take back our redistricting process and unrig our elections,” said Nancy Wang, Executive Director of Voters Not Politicians, the grassroots, nonpartisan group that ended gerrymandering in Michigan. “We are thrilled to see an end to these wasteful lawsuits brought by the Michigan Republican Party, Tony Daunt of the Michigan Freedom Fund, and other opponents of fair redistricting to thwart the will of the people.”
“Thousands of regular Michiganders took the initiative to make our voices heard and our votes count.” Wang continued. “Voters overwhelmingly approved the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, but we knew that those who stood to lose power under a fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process would do whatever they could to hold onto that power. Our continued, decisive legal victories from the Michigan Supreme Court to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrate that when the people come together to protect and strengthen our democracy, we will prevail.”
Judge Neff’s decision to grant the motions filed by Voters Not Politicians and the Secretary of State to dismiss the lawsuits is another legal victory for Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was cited as an example by the U.S. Supreme Court of how states can address partisan gerrymandering.
“It is time for fair maps in Michigan,” said Paul Smith, Vice President at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Taking partisanship out of drawing electoral maps is critical to advancing the principles of accountability and transparency in government. Voters nationwide are tired of being silenced by special interests, who have exerted their will over the redistricting process for far too long. Now Michigan can turn to the important work of putting their citizen-led commission into action.”
Voters Not Politicians has started to test a free tool in partnership with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to make it easy and efficient for communities of interest to submit maps to the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission so they have a say in how they are represented. Volunteers are also developing an educational curriculum to help Michiganders learn more about providing compelling, detailed, and localized feedback to help guide the Commission’s decision making.
The application window to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission closed on June 1, 2020, with 9,367 voters submitting applications, and an independent firm retained by the Secretary of State’s office randomly selected a group of 200 “semi-finalists” that reflects the geographic and demographic diversity of the state. The Legislative leadership has until August 1 to strike up to 10% of the applications in the semi-finalist pool. Then the independent firm will randomly select from the remaining applications the final 13 commissioners – 4 who affiliate as Republicans, 4 who affiliate as Democrats, and 5 who affiliate with neither major party by September 1. A full timeline of constitutional requirements can be found on the Voters Not Politicians website here.
Voters Not Politicians was represented by Paul Smith, Mark Gaber, and Annabelle Harless of the Campaign Legal Center, and Graham Crabtree of Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, P.C.
Voters Not Politicians is a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to strengthen democracy by engaging people across Michigan in effective citizen action. Learn more at www.votersnotpoliticians.com.