If it withstands legal challenges, as it surely will face, the Voters Not Politicians (VNP) ballot proposal must be approved by Michigan voters in the November general election.
If it wins at the ballot box, it will rip reapportionment of Congressional and legislative district lines after every decennial census away from the Legislature and Governor and will saddle Michigan with the worst system of redistricting ever devised in the United States of America.
It will be fought tooth-and-nail every step of the way by its opponents as unconstitutional, and the litigation will drag on for months, probably years. But that’s not the worst part. It’s the remapping plans the commission will produce — there will be an unrelenting legal assault against them forever, and the confusion and sheer obtuseness of the new maps will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The news media, however, will love the new maps — they will be an endless source of print fodder and mindless pontificating by clueless reporters and editors.
Here’s what the make-up of the VNP redistricting commission will look like if it actually reflects, as it claims it will, the demographics and geography of Michigan:
The commission envisioned by its VNP sponsors will consist of 13 individuals, who within the last six years have had no governmental or political experience, nor will they have any “close family relatives” who do.
Those 13 individuals will be randomly selected by the Secretary of State using “accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools as closely as possible mirror the geographic and demographic make-up of the state.”
The proposed amendment does not detail what specific demographic questions will be asked on the application. The text of the proposed amendment says only that the Secretary of State shall make applications available to the general public no later than January 1 of the year of the federal decennial census (the next commences January 1, 2020). Does the Secretary of State get to write the application without that application having any statutory or administrative rule basis for a demographic category? Is choosing which demographic characteristic to select or omit from the application subject only to the whim of Secretary of State, whoever that may be?
For this part-time job, the 13 commissioners will be paid $44,400 each, which is fixed at 25% of the salary of the Governor. Supporters of the proposed VNP amendment say the Commission should be made up of Commissioners who look like Michigan.
If so, here is the likely composition of the Redistricting Commission using the U. S. Census Bureau’s Michigan Electorate Profile based upon its most recent 2016 American Community Survey:
% of the Michigan Electorate
Male 48.65% — Six Commissioners
Female 51.35% — Seven Commissioners
18-24 years 18% — Two Commissioners
25-44 years 26.2% — Three Commissioners
45-64 years 35.9% — Five Commissioners
65 years and over 19.9% — Three Commissioners
Race and Hispanic origin
White 79.3% — 10 Commissioners
Black 13.9% — Two Commissioners
American Indian 1.2% — One Commissioner
Median household income (MHI) $52,492
Higher than MHI — At least Six Commissioners
Lower than MHI At least — Six Commissioners
Income below the poverty level 13.3 % —Two Commissioners
Bachelor’s degree or higher 28.3% — Four Commissioners
Less than a college degree 71.7% — Nine Commissioners
Veteran Status 7.2% — One Commissioner
Disability status 14.5% — Two Commissioners
Political Party allocation required in the VNP amendment:
Self-identified Republicans — Four Commissioners
Self-identified Democrats — Four Commissioners
Self-identified as having no party affiliation — Five Commissioners
Wayne, Oakland, Macomb Counties — Five Commissioners
Thumb, Genesee, Saginaw, Bay, and surrounding counties — Two Commissioners
West Michigan-Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, etc. — Three Commissioners
Mid-Michigan- Ann Arbor, Brighton, Lansing, Battle Creek, Mt. Pleasant, Jackson, Monroe, etc. — Two Commissioners
Northern Lower Michigan & the U.P. — One Commissioner
The VNP amendment does not require anyone to have experience, training, education, skills or expertise. Selection as a commissioner is based entirely on an applicant’s geographic residence and the demographic characteristics they possess along with a lot of random luck. Supporters say commission selection is akin to jury selection. Not true. A prospective juror is subject up-front to “voir dire” by the judge or both sides in a case and can be excused under a pre-emptory challenge or for cause. The four legislative leaders each get to strike five applicants from the final 200 names.
In Michigan, an applicant will not not even have a face-to-face job interview. This is in sharp contrast with a thorough interview process that applicants for Independent Redistricting Commissions have in California and Arizona. No one will ever know if an applicant is a bigoted social misfit until the first meeting of the Commission if that person is somehow randomly drawn as a Commissioner.
The VNP proposal is an attempt to enshrine identity politics in the Michigan Constitution. Opting for a commission where no commissioner has governmental or political experience is a colossal error. It is part of a disturbing trend in Michigan to use the initiative petition process to amend the Michigan Constitution to dumb down Michigan government: term limits, a part-time Legislature, and now what its champions are calling an “Independent Redistricting Commission.”
Clearly, this panel is designed, not to enlist Michigan’s best and the brightest for the task of redistricting, but rather to draft to the lowest common denominator. If this is what voters want, they deserve what they’ll be getting.