I’m generally suspicious of ballot-initiative changes to Michigan’s Constitution, and we’re facing some especially ill-advised Constitutional change Proposals in this election.
Proposal 2 is intended to fix a re-districting problem, and taps into the general suspicion of government and a burgeoning populist sentiment.
A “no” vote opposes transfering [sic] the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to an independent redistricting commission.
More from Ballotopedia
“Independent” sounds good, but the devil is in the details. This proposal’s major flaw is vagueness, followed closely by unnecessary complication.
Here is a link to a neutral analysis from The Mackinac Center. I am not presenting both sides here, since it’s well done at the link, but I will quote briefly from the section on arguments against Prop 2. If you want the pros, too, click here.
Many terms in Proposal 2 do not appear to be clearly defined. For instance, the secretary of state would be required “to ensure that [applicants for the commission], as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state.” A number of different demographical factors could be used for this purpose, including age, race, income, gender, education level, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Yet, the proposal is silent about which ones matter. Presumably, this question will be left to the discretion of the secretary of state.
Another potentially problematic concept is “communities of interest,” which districts drawn by the commission are required to “reflect.” Although the proposal states that these could be populations that share “cultural or historical characteristics or economic interests,” it also states that communities of interests “shall not be limited to” these definitions — essentially making it an open-ended term. And while 24 other states use this term or something similar in their redistricting guidelines, most provide either a more concrete definition or qualify this requirement with phrases like “to the extent feasible” or “where practicable.”21 By including these poorly defined concepts and others, Proposal 2 may inadvertently grant the secretary of state a significant amount of power over the redistricting process.* Further, ill-defined concepts are fertile ground for litigation, and the proposed commission’s maps may be continually challenged in court…
Proposal 2 would create a completely new redistricting process and commission. Michigan would join the few states that use a similar mechanism for redistricting. Taking this step may be unnecessary, and a simpler alternative might fix the Michigan Constitution to make the original redistricting rules established in 1963 valid and functional again. These original redistricting rules were deemed unconstitutional because they required redistricting officials to considered both population and land area when determining district boundaries.22 Removing land area from the redistricting formula would likely render these rules constitutional.
We’ve seen what regulatory discretion can do at the Federal level when it is bounded by vague constraints. Congress turned over so much legislative authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that Obamacare’s provisions are interpreted according to who occupies the White House. This is also true, for example, of regulation under Title IX, regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and regulation by the Federal Communications Commission. This is not how the rule of law works. It makes the law explicitly political.
No matter your political leanings, you can certainly imagine a Michigan Secretary of State whose definitions of “age, race, income, gender, education level, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion” would make you uncomfortable. You would also probably be wary of what a person who opposes your preferred outcomes might do with “communities of interest.”
As for the idea that the proposed redistricting commission would be non-partisan:
Democrats and Republicans on the commission will likely vote en bloc, each supporting a single plan submitted by one of their own.
This would result in making the votes of the five members who do not self-identify with either party the determining votes in which plan gets approved.‡ And if no other plans are submitted, these five members will be forced to choose between a Republican-supported plan and a Democrat-supported plan. No matter the outcome, Michigan would still have a new district map designed by partisans. Further, even if one or more nonpartisan members submit a plan for final approval, that plan must get the approval of at least two commission members who are affiliated with one of the major parties. Because these groups will likely vote en bloc, in order for one of these plans to be approved, it must gain the support of either the Democrats or Republicans. So in this scenario too, the approved plan would rely on partisan support.
No, on MI 18-2.
Proposal 3 Constitutionally enshrines: 1) the secret ballot and, 2) that military members and overseas voters receive an absentee ballot at least 45 days before the election.
These are good things, but putting them in the Constitution does not make up for other things Prop 3 places there. In my opinion, they’re there to fool people who would otherwise vote No on Prop 3. They are currently enforced by Michigan legislation, and represent no change in practice. I cannot see any legislative effort to ever change them. Further, those military voting rights are already covered by US Federal law.
More from Ballotopedia
Here are the worst things Prop 3 places in the Michigan Constitution: 1) Election day registration to vote; 2) Mandating the straight-ticket voting option; and 3) Automatic voter registration upon issuance of a State ID/Drivers License.
Overall, Proposal 3 is worse than Prop 2. It weakens the State’s ability to ensure only citizens can vote, and enshrines the idea that some voters are too lazy to check more than one box, and/or too rigidly ideological to vote for candidates not from a single party. Among other things, this greatly reduces the chances we’ll ever elect, for example, Libertarians, Greens, or Democratic Socialists. It’s equally offensive to all possible third parties.
So, No on MI Prop 18-3.