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.
Matt L. Tomasiewicz says
LOOKS like a “sour grapes” campaign to preserve the dominance of the Republican party which has controlled the lagislature for years.
The ballot proposal is the most democratic approach to district design Michigan has had in many years. IT’S fair, honest, and necessary in bringing about equity.
Lisa Haverdink says
I agree with your analysis. But where exactly did this proposal come from? And why is it being placed on the ballot without congressional debate and approval? It seem that interviews, background checks and other identity info should and must be done. This sounds farcical.
Carol Heron says
It seems farcical because the Ballenger Report article was written to give that impression. If you really want to see what is being proposed and who is doing it, go to Votersnotpoliticians.com and check out the website. Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have done this and they liked what they saw. If you wish to understand or question something you can do it there and obtain a response that you can assess. I think you will like what you see. The only people who haven’t liked it are those who stand to lose their singular grip on our voting system.
The goal of the proposal is to bring the principles of independence, fairness, transparency and nonpartisanship to the redistricting process. Check it out.
Grace Thorn says
Michigan Election Reform Alliance is a NON PARTISIAN election integrity group who has a combined level of experience in election integrity of 100 years. These are not political alliances; they are citizens of this State who demand FAIR ELECTIONS and know that the process is broken. Yes, some have been Clerks and who is better suited to know the failures. Ballinger is indeed FOR maintaining a political hold in this State but that is NOT what citizens want. They Want to know that their Votes DO Count.
Kenneth A., says
The “Voter not Politicians” is the atypical Double Speak of the Progressive political apparatchiks.
Democracy is mob rule, which is exactly the type of political environment the proponents of “Voters Not Politician” look forward to impose, which by the way would be a wanton violation of Article IV of the Constitution of the United States for the United States of America.
First our State is Not A Democracy, it is a Republic, where we elect OUR Representatives to sit in public office.
Redistricting is gerrymandering the electoral districts, which is all “Voter not Politicians” intend to impose under their false promises wrapped within the ambiguity of their proposed amendment.
Sadly, the proponents of this rhetorical double speak “Voters Not Politicians” are reliant upon misinformation to promote their mobocracy.
Fortunately Michiganders proved on the First Tuesday of November 2016, that the double speak of the Progressive political class was put upon the ash heap of history where it belongs.
Grace Thorn says
Fascists might like your comment but Independents won’t and disagree with your assessment. FYI, The Republic as you state ended the day citizens were allowed to vote for Senators. It became the Democratic Republic. Redistricting or Gerrymandering has NEVER been done on such a grand and obtrusive scale as we’ve seen the Koch’s groups draw them. We oppose Corporations drawing our maps to suit their purposes. VNP is a Non Partisian group and always has been FOR the Right to Vote as Citizens….not as fascists, not as neoliberal’s. Try, try, again!
William Gordon says
Your use of the language says you are not independent. And suggests that VNP is not either.
Kirk Haverkamp says
All the VNP proposal does is prevent any one faction from controlling the process and bending it to its own ends. To be approved, any map would need the support of at least two Dems, two Repubs and two unaligned members out of the 13 members of the Redistricting Commission. So gerrymandering becomes impossible.
Defenders of the status quo throw up a lot of smoke, but all they’re really doing is continue to game the system as they see fit.
William Gordon says
There is no such thing as an unaligned person. Looks like an automatic liberal 4 to 2 majority, since none of the proponents would consider putting an ‘unaligned’ conservative on the commission.
Darts would be cheaper . . .
Bill Gelineau for Governor of Michigan says
A simple proportional representation of qualified political parties would end all the nonsense. Instead of snarky remarks from the two entrenched forces of Team Blue and Team Red, they should investigate what a multi-member district combined with a proportional “correcter” (used in many countries) would accomplish for Michigan.
First, it would prevent the lobbyists from targeting known Committee Chairs. The make-up (based on statewide vote percentages) now of 52 Republicans, 52 Democrats, 4 Libertarians, and 2 Green representatives would make for interesting coalitions of cooperation. Perhaps we’d even get our roads fixed, cut subsidies for profitable companies, and much more the vast majority would like to see done.
Gerrymandering is a bane on our Constitution. Both D’s and R’s are equally guilty. This proposal, while terrible, is a reaction to the abuse of power. It’s time to respect our democratic institution by adopting a proportional system. Bill Gelineau
Grace Thorn says
Fact check that about both D & R’s doing it. It has NEVER been done on the scale it was done by the Republicans…not even close to what we see with snake drawn districts, etc.. Yes, Democrats did draw maps but NEVER created ‘safe zones’ by which even 100% of Democrats voting could effect a No Seat scenario.
William Gordon says
So you are saying that since your ideas can’t win an election, you will take control of government thru constitutional amendment. Hum.
The Winegarden response. This plan is not direct Democracy, but direct naked Tyranny ! Violative of the Headlee amendment and Subject to
Moranic Obstructinist Behavior ,having
Watched the Flint Town Council meetings For years! The Polity deserves proper Vetting of prospective
Commisioners ,Not Either Party’s political Hacks this is implicit in the
Concept of Ordered Liberty.who is the
Despicable Polichickens that came up
With This one? J Dallas Winegarden
Former State of Michigan Commisioner of Legislative Statutory
Matt: Be careful what you wish for … Lisa: This is not a federal proposal, so Congress is not involved. Carol is right — go to the votersnotpoliticians.com website to read up on what its proponents say it is … Carol: You sound like a very sincere, idealistic person, but you must know that many people who have looked at this proposal do NOT have a “singular grip on our voting system.” They are just noticing the obvious. You have not refuted any of the arguments presented in the article …
Robert McCloy says
Politicians don’t currently draw the districts. They don’t know how (term limits have assured that). The districts are drawn by the same power brokers who choose the candidates and finance their campaigns. Once their puppets are in place, the next step for ALEC, the Chamber of Commerce, and other such groups is to draw the districts to protect their investment. Let’s have real term limits, that is, FAIR ELECTIONS.
Grace Thorn says
Thank you, Robert McCloy for stating FACTUAL information! Koch’s web groups are indeed drawing the districts and protecting their control over the State of Michigan. The writer of this article is clearly of the Libertarian ideology that only white male property owners should have the right to vote. They use the term “safe zones” and that is exactly what they created when they drew the last maps. As we witnessed in MI, many more Democrats voted and won but in spite of that…more republicans took seats. The VNP ballot is and was created by NON PARTISIANS and now republican go after them, too? Every wants their vote to count and FAIRLY drawn districts is a threat to their maintaining control.
William Gordon says
So are you saying that after VNP proposal takes effect, we will have equal Republican and Democrat representation on Detroit City Council, Detroit School Board, Flint City Council, Ann Arbor City Council, etc, etc, etc. ?
Wow! Robert & Grace: A lot of sound and fury in your comments, but no refutation of any of the criticism of VNP in the article. FWIW, term-limited legislators are no less able to draw today’s district lines than their predecessors, because the latter didn’t draw them, either. Neither did the “special interests.” You would have had to be involved in the system half a century ago to know that. Are you saying only VNP has produced the perfect “system” for effecting reapportionment? If so, how do you respond to the specific observations in the article?
Hey, Kirk, the current system may be rotten, as you say, but does that preclude the possibility of VNP being MORE rotten?
L Carol Auten says
There will be disruption every ten years with politicians involved. There will be less disruption with the VNP plan. If Democrats win in 2020 they will redraw the lines.
William Gordon says
Please explain how VNP will be “less distruption? Seems like its whole point is to have more disruption.
lurgulary watch says
Conservatism is Russian Federation in real time, at least in Michigan.
Former Gov.Elbridge Gerry ( after whom the term “gerrymandering” is named ) must be spinning in his two-centuries old Massachusetts grave by the VNP movement.
“A Republic is only as good as its citizens are informed and active,” said Plato; this begs the following question: “Michigan citizens are apparently active. . . but are they informed?”
The Ballenger Report ignores the opening words of the Michigan constitution: “All political power is inherent in the people.” Rather, TBR is attempting to deny the people’s constitutional power and keep power in the hands of the legislature, which heeds the demands of their lobbyists, while ignoring the wishes of the people.
“Deny the people’s Constitutional power?” Not at all, RWeir. TBR is simply cautioning voters (if they get the chance): “Be careful what you wish for …” If this proposal gets on the ballot, the electorate has every right to approve it — but then WATCH OUT!
Jim Kerby says
Now I know why my libiterian friends (I profess to be an independent now days) talk about the Washington as elitists. In this case, it is the Lansing elitists!! If it looks like an elitist, talks like an elitist, and acts like an elitist, it must be an elitist. Oh my… lions and tigers and bears… oh my…. people that are not elitist…. oh my!
Once people become engaged, they get on the learning curve and produce amazing things. Oh My!
Susan Miller says
Under the VNP proposal, sitting State Senators and Representatives each have 5 peremptory challenges (as in a jury selection process) to those in the final pool of 200 citizens from which the 13 member commission would be chosen. If sitting legislators find a pool member to be highly unqualified or inappropriately politically connected, those challenges are available to eliminate the prospective commission member to whom the legislator objects.