By JEREMY WAHR
Capital News Service
LANSING– Want to determine the future of Michigan’s representation in Lansing and Washington?
You have until June of 2020 to volunteer to serve on the state’s new redistricting commission that voters approved Nov. 6.
The commission members will be selected randomly, said Elizabeth Battiste, an account executive at Martin Waymire, a public relations firm that represented the group that pushed for Proposal 2.
Applications will be sent to 10,000 registered voters from diverse geographic and ethnic backgrounds. But any registered voter can apply by mailing an applications to the Secretary of State. Former lobbyists and politicians or their employees will not be accepted, Battiste said.
Applications will be handled through the Secretary of State’s office and 13 applicants will be chosen during a complex winnowing process involving state elections and party officials.
Details of that process are uncertain and will require input from incoming Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Battiste said. Eventually the new committee will be made of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independent voters chosen by Sept. 1, 2020, she said.
“It’s an entirely voluntary process,” Battiste said. “So it’s not like jury duty, where people are forced to do it.”
Michigan was one of three states to approve anti-gerrymandering measures on Nov. 6. A fourth state, Utah, currently has 50.2 percent of the votes in favor, but not all of the votes have been counted, according to Utah’s lieutenant governor’s office.
Across Michigan, the proposal captured 61 percent of the votes, according to the Secretary of State. The proposal in Colorado passed with 71 percent of the vote. The proposal in Missouri passed with 61 percent of the vote.
All three proposals create nonpartisan committees to draw legislative district lines. The idea is to avoid giving political parties unfair advantages by creating districts that favor more of their voters.
All of these proposals amend state constitutions.
But 36 states also have redistricting legislation under consideration or recently passed, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
In Michigan, 17 counties voted the proposal down, according to the Associated Press: Alcona, Branch, Cheboygan, Hillsdale, Huron, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Luce, Mackinac, Missaukee, Montmorency, Newaygo, Osceola, Oscoda, Presque Isle, Sanilac and Wexford.
“We think those counties may have voted no because of a lot of misinformation being spread in those areas,” Battiste said. The Michigan Freedom Fund claimed in a radio ad that the commission would be cashing a blank check. The ad was eventually taken down because it included unverifiable information, she said.
Mark Grebner, the founder of Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing, said that some opponents claimed that the committee would be a fourth branch of government with unlimited spending power.
Because Voters not Politicians, the group that funded the ballot proposal, volunteered largely in more populated areas, less populated areas may have fallen through the cracks, Battiste said.
The 17 counties that voted the proposal down were likely motivated by Republican member groups in those counties, like the Chamber of Commerce, Grebner said.
The last time the lines were redrawn was in 2011 by a Republican-controlled legislature. The Republican Party largely opposed this proposal because it would threaten their hold on the state, Grebner said.
The Michigan Freedom Fund and the state Chamber of Commerce did not return requests for comment.