An organization calling itself “Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution” (CPMC) is seeking to block the “Voters Not Politicians” ballot proposal from appearing on the statewide ballot this fall.
CPMC claims that, while Michigan citizens have the authority to initiate amendments to the state Constitution, they are not allowed to make massive revisions to the basic charter in a single proposal. Accordingly, with a 34-page brief, CPMC filed suit in the state Court of Appeals Wednesday (April 25) to stop VNP from getting on the ballot.
CPMC gives the following as reasons why VNP violates Michigan law and should be blocked from the ballot:
- The proposal is a massive revision of the Michigan Constitution and not an amendment. This Constitution does not allow for such sweeping changes to be made by a single ballot initiative. In 2008, a partisan proposal containing similar language was supported by a group dubbed “Reform Michigan Government Now” (RMGN). That proposal also was launched by an initiative petition drive and would have established a new legislative redistricting commission and transferred power over redistricting to the commission and away from the Legislature. When challenged in court, the state appellate court held that the revisions posited by the ballot proposal were too fundamentally disruptive to state government to be submitted to the voters as an initiated amendment. On appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a bi-partisan decision, affirmed the appellate ruling.
- The VNP petition fails to mention all the provisions of the 1963 Constitution that would be nullified, as required by law. These provisions concern free speech, the jurisdiction of the courts, oaths of office required by holders of state office, and the manner in which state funds are to be appropriated and spent.
- The VNP proposal puts one single partisan elected official (Secretary of State) in control of the redistricting commission.
- VNP fundamentally changes the power and authority of all three branches of state government. VNP eliminates the roles of the legislative and executive branches of government and minimizes the role of the judiciary in redistricting.
- The VNP language insists that redistricting be based on “communities of interest” and “political fairness,” but offers no definition of what is meant by either of those terms. Moreover, it relegates to minor status a redistricting requirement included in every Michigan Constitution since 1815 — county and municipal boundaries.
- The VNP proposal would add more than 3,000 words to the existing Constitution, while deleting more than 1,400 words. If approved by the voters, this would be the largest-ever one-time change to the Constitution since it was adopted in 1963.
- The VNP proposal would eliminate the peoples’ own Constitutional right to challenge or change by initiative or referendum what the VNP redistricting commission draws up.”The delegates to the 1963 Constitution wanted their Constitution to endure. They wanted major changes to be made only after careful study and a meaningful opportunity for voters to fully appreciate the full scope of these changes,” says Bob LaBrant, of counsel to the CPMC. “The VNP proposal is at odds with this historical commitment to a full and fair hearing on the core questions that affect us all. The courts exist to protect and uphold the Constitution. All these are reasons why we’re filing our action against VNP.”
NVP voter says
Boy, this opinion is piece is so full of distortions I don’t know where to begin. Ballenger obviously represents those political and commercial interests who currently hold redistricting power and want to keep it in place to protect themselves against the majority of voters. Please read the factual information on the Voters Not Politicians website.
I believe a fair distribution of redistricting power is essential to rid ourselves of the hyper-partisanship that currently infects our democracy. When there are no longer “safe” districts – for either party – elected officials will have to listen to both sides, find appropriate compromises to solve problems, and begin governing again instead of screeching at each other.
The article simply recites what is in the legal brief filed by Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution. It’s not a question of what “VNP Voter” thinks, or the Ballenger Report thinks — it’s what COURTS will think. And The Ballenger Report represents NO “political and commercial interests,” Never has, never will. Maybe “VNP Voter” does …
Charles Holley says
Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution is funded by 6 contributions, while Voters Not Politicians is funded by over 10,000.
The organization that filed a lawsuit on an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is funded by special interests that want to protect the status quo.
David Richards says
I certainly agree that what is most important is what the courts say. But two things are missing from the article; comment from the VNP people, and information on who is behind the opposing group. I have enough confidence in TBR to expect that it, at least to some extent, is aware of the identity of the principals and the funding sources of CPMC, and laying that out would be highly useful.
David is correct that TBR doesn’t lay out ALL the pros and cons about the Voters Not Politicians ballot proposal — just the Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution argument opposing it. That’s because the pro-VNP argument has been laid out so well in other new articles and publications, like a Detroit News piece last Friday (you can easily Google it). TBR mentions one person prominently connected to the CPMC side — veteran attorney Bob LaBrant, who has been active in opposing similar VNP-style efforts in the past. There are others, most of them affiliated with the Michigan Republican Party. None of this is a secret …
BRENDA E BANSALE says
Read what is hidden in Prop 2. Theres a slew of hidden things thrown in that will raise taxes and once you amend our constitution, it can’t be undone.
Joseph Lenard says
The VNP is yet another LIBERAL SHAM. They cannot be honest about their intent or they would not get anywhere. They must achieve their goals through deceit. And, again, like the 17th Amendment and the Left trying to do away with the Electoral College, this is yet more attempts to destroy the Founding principles with their balance and protections they built in. VOTE NO!!!
Jerome Kohel says
The proposal disenfranchises some citizens from serving on the commission, such as relatives of office holders. How can one lose rights due to a relative’s political activity. My views might be diametrically opposed to his.
Walt de Vries, Ph.D. says
As a Delegate to the 1961-62 Constitutional Convention (R-Grand Rapids), I strongly advocated that each generation of voters be asked to vote on whether or not they wanted to call a convention to rewrite the 1963 constitution. We did that to avoid wholesale revisions of the constitution as apparently contained in the VNP proposal. If they want to do that–call a convention.
NVP voter says
I have absolutely no political interests or commercial interests in this matter. I’m a retired teacher of American history and government. How about the rest of you?
Susan Miller says
To Joseph Lenard…must you immediately resort to name calling and demeaning of other groups? I support the VNP ballot proposal. I am not a big fan or party politics, Democratic or Republican. The VNP proposal is being supported by a range of groups: the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Independent Voting, Michigan Independent Voters, the UAW and others. These people are not ignoramuses and are not all cut from the same political cloth. Pay attention as well to who is opposing the VNP proposal appearing on the ballot (after 425,000 Michiganders signed a petition asking that it appear). I don’t believe the opposition’s objections are matters of constitutional law. They concern political and economic power and the desire to retain that, however unfairly. Fairness and transparency in government, as ideals, are not dirty words. For some of us, they are principles worth fighting for. I will be voting YES, if given the opportunity to vote on this valid proposal.
Nancy McConnell says
The groups you mentioned all have the reputation of being left-leaning, or are newly formed for this purpose, and are seeking power and control for themselves. Piecemeal tinkering with the constitution is unwise as it usually reflects special interests, not the average citizen. Too many questions on this one for me. When in doubt, vote NO.
Roger Abbott says
I happened to be one of those independent voters I’m proud member of the NRA and probably voted for John McCain over Barack Obama.
This voters not politicians group is it genuine Grassroots thing. Unlike all the other ballot proposals they were gathered with signatures from actual volunteers thousands of volunteers like myself, not paid a single sent to do it.
Gerrymandering is a long historical problem that has been abused by both political parties. You should see that crap that Democrats have done with gerrymandering in California, prior to gerrymandering reforms. The Democrats fought the gerrymandering and forms in California to thin nail and screened about being right-wing conspiracy. Nancy Pelosi herself spoke out against it.
But with modern dating mining available that gerrymandering could even be a far worse problem than before.
The one benefit with this proposal is that forced the process to be open and every step of the process be up to scrutiny to the public.
Currently right now all the districts are drawn in secret. And not for the benefit of the voters.
It’s not a perfect answer to the problem. But it’s far better than the current system.
Al chapman says
There are precious few genuine independent voters.Most people counted in polls as such are are either too indifferent to inform themselves or too wishie washy to take a stand.Independent members of these “Commissions” will likely be drawn from the standing chorus of left wing “activists” and former democrat office holders.We have a working system to manage apportionment leave it alone.
Susan Miller says
Here is what Ronald Reagan had to say on the subject under discussion:
October 15, 1987, UPI, Ira R. Allen
WASHINGTON — President Reagan, declaring he will not ‘be sitting around the Rose Garden in 1988,’ told Republicans Thursday night he will campaign against the ‘national scandal’ of Democratic gerrymandering.
Referring to the age-old practice of legislatures drawing the congressional district boundaries to help one party or the other, Reagan called for election of Republican governors in 1988 and 1990 as ‘the only shot we have at getting a fair deal’ in Democratic-controlled state legislatures after the 1990 census changes the number of congressional districts in many states.
‘A fair deal — that’s all we’re asking for, an end to the anti-democratic and un-American practice of gerrymandering congressional districts.’
Gerrymandering is named after Massachusetts politician Elbridge Gerry, who created the art of drawing districts shaped like salamanders to protect certain candidates. Gerry served as vice president from 1813 to 1817 under President James Madison.
Reagan charged that the redrawings have resulted in Republicans winning more popular votes for Congress in contested races but losing a majority of seats in the House.
‘The fact is, gerrymandering has become a national scandal,’ he told the Republican Governors Club, a fund-raising association to help GOP statehouse candidates.
‘The Democratic-controlled state legislatures have so rigged the electoral process that the will of the people cannot be heard. They vote Republican but elect Democrats,’ Reagan said.
‘But it just isn’t the district lines the Democrats have bent out of shape — it’s the American values of fair play and decency. And it’s time we stopped them.’
Reagan’s raising the issue of gerrymandering was the third time he has done so in a month, and it provoked a rambling departure from the text of his speech. He said the problems Republicans have faced for the past half century has been due to Democratic Congresses when the GOP holds the White House.
NVP voter says
Here is the VNP response to the claim that the proposal reaches too far into all the branches of government:
“FACT: This proposal only impacts the redistricting process. That process currently
involves all three branches of government, so it is important that the proposal is
thorough to make sure the Independent Citizens Redistricting Committee is formed
in a way that the people of Michigan laid out during our Town Hall and survey
process. The proposal has to be detailed to guard against meddling by politicians,
who will be sure to try and find loopholes. By specifying the exact rules for the
process, there’s no wiggle room for politicians to try and undermine it through new
-From their newsletter of May 2, 2018