Government, Law, and Nonprofits

Legal tussle puts redistricting proposal on November ballot

Voters will have right to decide future of legislative maps for Michigan.

September 14, 2018
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After a long legal battle, voters in Michigan will have the option of choosing who will redraw Michigan’s district maps in the future.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of Voters Not Politicians, a grassroots organization that wants voters to conduct the redistricting process as opposed to state government, which places the initiative on the November ballot.

If voters approve the proposal, Jim Lancaster, the attorney representing the Voters Not Politicians campaign, said the proposition will create transparency and voters will see how district lines are drawn.

If approved, Elizabeth Batiste, VNP’s communications director, said the organization will create a redistricting committee comprised of 13 commissioners who are Michigan citizens with different political philosophies. They will be charged with redrawing the Congressional district map, State Senate district map and the State House district map.

The proposal, which is identified as Proposal 2, garnered more than 425,000 petition signatures. The petition was later approved by the Board of State Canvassers.

According to court documents, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, a private organization, filed a lawsuit in April asking the Secretary of State and the Board of State Canvassers to reject VNP’s petition for the redistricting proposal.

The Grand Rapids Business Journal contacted the attorneys who represent CPMC but they did not return calls. However, CPMC claimed in court documents the petition seeks to change the Michigan Constitution of 1963.

In the court documents, CPMC raised several concerns, including that VNP is not amending the constitution, but instead, the petition is revising the constitution, which would require a constitutional convention.

“The VNP proposal is a revision because it is quantitatively large, and because it makes significant qualitative changes to the core structures of state government,” according to court documents.

CPMC claimed in court documents the VNP proposal would transfer all lawmaking powers over redistricting of the state legislature and the Michigan congressional delegation to the 13-member commission so there would be no legislative oversight. The state legislature would be stripped of control over commission appropriations and budget measures, court documents stated.

CPMC also claimed the governor would have no control over budgeting for the commission, per court documents. The commission would have exclusive control over procuring, contracting and hiring staff, consultants and lawyers, it said.

Also, the court document claimed the Michigan Supreme Court would be stripped of reviewing redistricting plans for compliance with state and federal constitutional requirements.

Another concern CPMC stated in the court documents was VNP’s proposal to eliminate the right of the people to nullify a redistricting plan by referendum or to repeal or modify a plan by citizens’ initiative.

Despite the concerns argued in the Michigan Court of Appeals, the case was rejected. Graham Crabtree was the attorney who represented VNP in the lawsuit.

“We had filed what they call a cross-claim against the Secretary of State and the Board of State Canvassers, asking the court to order them to take action promptly and to go ahead and approve the ballot proposal for the ballot, and the Court of Appeals granted our cross-claim,” Crabtree said.

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