The former Republican governor of California and actor known for the Terminator franchise made an appearance at the Terminate Gerrymandering rally held by Voters Not Politicians. The nonpartisan group is responsible for putting Proposal 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot. If passed, the proposal will end the partisan redistricting process known as gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is a process by which members of a state’s house of representatives redraw voting districts in a way that secures seats for them and their party. Districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect changes in population. With no laws against gerrymandering, parties in power have been able to create districts that favor one party above another. In this way, Schwarzenegger said, politicians are choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians. If passed, Proposal 2 would implement anti-gerrymandering measures in Michigan, such as using a commission of 13 citizen volunteers representing both parties and independents, rather than legislators, to redraw district lines.
Michigan proposal echoes one in California
As governor of California, Schwarzenegger supported a measure similar to Proposal 2 to put redistricting in the hands of voters. It was a difficult process, he told the crowd at the Ann St. Plaza, but says the results have been worth it. “I tried four times to put this on the ballot and we got beaten,” he said, “But I’m like an Alabama tick. I’m going to be there and you can’t get rid of me until the job is done. This is exactly why I am here today, because eventually the fifth time was successful. It reformed the system, we did the redistricting through a citizen commission and it was extremely successful.”
“Now, the Democrats and Republicans are getting along better. We don’t want them to get along too well and kiss, but we want them to get along and get the work done.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
Getting Proposal 2 on the ballot in Michigan began with the launch of Voters Not Politicians in early 2017. The group collected more than 425,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot, Ahead of redistricting scheduled for 2020.
Volunteer Amy Ralston helped gather signatures. Of all the ballot items she will vote on Nov. 6, she said, Proposal 2 is among the most important, tied with the races for United States Senate and House of Representatives. “This will provide a way for the people of Michigan to take control back of the voting process,” she said.
Issue has survived one court challenge
Proposal 2 was challenged in court by the group Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution.
Graham Crabtree argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of Voters Not Politicians in Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution v. Secretary of State. He said Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution had challenged ballot proposals before and challenged this one on the grounds that it altered the state constitution too much to be decided by a ballot proposal and that the petition did not make clear the extent to which it would alter the constitution.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of placing Proposal 2 on the ballot and Crabtree says Schwarzenegger was instrumental in that process. Schwarzenegger and former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin submitted an amicus curiae brief to the court opposing gerrymandering. “Not only was it an excellent brief addressing the problem of gerrymandering, but it also showed the court that there are Republicans out there, notable Republicans, that are in favor of this. This is not just a Democratic effort,” said Crabtree, who considers himself an independent. “You have people from all walks of life that are supporting this because it’s all about fairness.”
Corri Byres, who helped organize the Terminate Gerrymandering Rally, agrees. She said redistricting reform is often thought of as a leftist issue, but “It crosses all boundary lines, from Democrats to Republicans. That’s why the Terminator is coming out today.” She said the support of a prominent Republican shows voters it is a non-partisan movement and draws attention to the proposal.
Schwarzenegger told the crowd gerrymandering has nothing to do with party allegiance. He told the audience elected officials “are the people’s representatives. They are public servants and not party servants, that’s what we have to teach them. They do not cater to the party, they cater to the people, that’s what this is all about.”