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The Michigan legislature is preparing to redraw the state's legislative and congressional districts. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan recommends that as part of this process the legislature should also propose changes to Michigan's Constitution to guide future redistricting efforts.
Michigan's legislature currently has a relatively free hand in the redistricting process. Language establishing a redistricting process in Michigan's Constitution has been ruled invalid by the Michigan Supreme Court. Without a constitutional framework, the legislature can rewrite statutory guidelines as part of the redistricting process. The only redistricting restrictions on the legislature are the limited constraints contained in the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"Michigan's current redistricting process is fundamentally flawed," said CRC President Jeff Guilfoyle. "Giving legislators a free hand to draw the districts that will determine from which constituents they must gain support undermines the democratic process."
CRC outlines a number of recommended changes to Michigan's redistricting process in Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Reform. Specifically, CRC recommends a number of provisions be added to the Michigan Constitution including the following:
- Recreate a redistricting commission,
- Limit redistricting to once per decade,
- Describe the appropriate redistricting procedures and timeline,
- Increase transparency and public engagement,
- Protect electors' right to challenge redistricting plans,
- Minimize population variance among districts,
- Ensure contiguous single-member districts,
- Create district boundaries that adhere to political boundaries, and
- Protect communities of interest.
In November of 2010, Michigan voters declined to convene a constitutional convention. Therefore, adding redistricting language to the Michigan Constitution in the near term will require either legislative action or a voter initiative. CRC recommends that the legislature place language on the 2012 ballot codifying the redistricting process in the Michigan Constitution.
"Michigan legislators should use this redistricting cycle to do more than redraw boundaries," said CRC Fellow Brittany Galisdorfer. "Legislators should take this opportunity to draft and place before voters an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that will minimize bias and increase transparency in the redistricting process for state's legislative and congressional districts. Valid and binding constitutional language will help to ensure the integrity of the redistricting process and the resulting districts."
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan is a private, nonprofit public affairs research organization, founded in 1916 to analyze issues pertaining to state and local government organization and finance in Michigan.