Ending Gerrymandering in Michigan – How a grassroots, citizen-led organization led a successful 2018 redistricting reform ballot initiative.
On November 6, 2018, 61% of Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 which put the power to draw future election district maps in the hands of voters – not politicians. Now, Voters Not Politicians is focused to make sure the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is implemented fairly, impartially, and transparently.
Voters Not Politicians built a 5,000+ volunteer grassroots, citizen-led organization from scratch. It collected more than 425,000 signatures, representing each of Michigan’s 83 counties, to get Proposal 2 on the ballot.
According to The Center for Michigan, Michigan has some of the nation’s worst election maps. In the 2016 election, Michiganders cast close to equal amounts of votes between Republican and Democratic candidates in congressional seat races. However due to gerrymandering, zero congressional races were decided by a margin of victory below 10% and Republicans took 64% of the seats.
Almost by accident, Katie Fahey started a political movement in Michigan and changed careers. Feeling that divisiveness in politics had reached a critical point following the 2016 election, Fahey posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to help her take on gerrymandering. In a few short months, that group of volunteers decided they were going to amend Michigan’s constitution through creating Proposal 2 to establish an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to end gerrymandering once and for all.
As Fahey explained, “the people of Michigan have been locked out of effective change-making opportunities, but we have the power, energy, and drive to create a solution that ends gerrymandering and reinvigorates the very spirit of our democracy.”
Voters Not Politicians held 33 Town Halls in 33 days – from Marquette to Monroe – in 2016 to gather feedback from Michiganders about how they would like to see the system change. This feedback was used in addition to guidance from local organizations and national experts. The solution they came up with was Amending Michigan’s Constitution to put an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission of 13 voters – not politicians – in charge of drawing the state’s election maps.
While the main goal of Voters Not Politicians is to end partisan gerrymandering, the group hopes to inspire other states that positive, lasting change can come directly from the people and that voters across the political spectrum can reform the status quo instead of settling for the way things are always done.