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  • 26 Oct 2018 3:04 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    More Than 80 Candidates Have Signed On To Repeal Redistricting Laws - WXPR - by Ken Krall

    80 state legislative candidates and two statewide candidates are on the 2018 ballot next month favoring the end of partisan drawing of voting boundaries.

    Majority Republicans in 2011 were tasked with redrawing the boundaries, as required every 10 years. This has resulted in a pending challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court over what is termed 'gerrymandering'.

    Common Cause of Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck says the resulting voting boundaries have changed the process... 

    "...There was one party in control of all three branches of government, the legislative and the governorship. They've created a situation where there are very few competitive legislative seats and zero competitive Congressional seats. As a consequence, elections are decided not in November for many of these state Congressional and legislative seats, but really in the primaries instead...."

    Heck says most supporters of change are looking at what has been called the "Iowa model". He says mainly Democrats favor the change, but he says there is some support from Republicans as well. He says the hope is to get a new non-partisan system in place by the next re-draw in, describing the Iowa system...

    "...Instead, in Iowa, it's done by a non-partisan service bureau, the counterpart in Wisconsin is the Legislative Reference Bureau. They draw the lines according to a strict set of criteria, but not partisan criteria. They do things like try to keep communities together, counties together, squares and rectangles are good..."

    Heck says under the current system, legislative leaders can largely dictate what the voting boundaries need to look like to keep a majority.

  • 26 Oct 2018 2:57 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Redistricting Warning by MD Governor If Reelected - Delmarva Public Radio - by Don Rush

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan says a second term would look a lot like his first, if he is re-elected, but voters can expect changes to how the state's congressional map is drawn.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Hogan said Thursday he will push again to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and have an independent commission draw Maryland's eight congressional districts.

    The Republican has proposed it for years, but Democrats who control the legislature say reform should come at the federal level. Hogan says they might change their minds, if he wins and has strong influence over the map.

    If the process is unchanged, Hogan says he'd focus on drawing contiguous districts "and have the voters actually pick their representatives, instead of the representatives picking their voters."

    Hogan is being challenged by Democratic candidate and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. 

  • 23 Oct 2018 4:51 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Redistricting at Hamilton Southeastern Schools: Everything you need to know - IndyStar - by Emma Kate Fittes

    Hamilton Southeastern Schools has released three options for redrawing its internal boundaries, each of which shows the reshuffling affecting where thousands of K-8 students attend school next fall.

    The elementary and secondary redistricting was spurred by the addition of a 13th elementary next school year, Southeastern Elementary on Cyntheanne Road.

    The three options were released ahead of two "community dialogues" scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, both at 6 p.m. The meetings will be held at Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern high schools, respectively.

    Referendum friendly: Experts guess Noblesville's school referendum will pass
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    The school board is expected to choose a plan in December. In the meantime, here's everything you need to know about HSE's redistricting:

    What is redistricting?

    Redistricting is defined as dividing or organizing an area into new political or school districts. In this case, we're talking about Hamilton Southeastern redrawing the boundaries for elementary and intermediate schools. That means some students will be assigned to a new school next year.

    Which schools could be affected?

    Administrators said the redistricting will only affect kindergarten through eighth grade, although board members brought up the high schools in early conversations.

    The three options put forward by the district move 24 to 28 percent of K-8 students, which amounts to more than 3,500 children. Schools near the new Southeastern Elementary that appear to be affected in every potential scenario include Geist, Thorpe Creek and Brooks School.

    What are the three redistricting options?

    Option 1: Moves 3,568 students. About 55 percent of elementary students and 65 percent of intermediate students would attend the school closest to where they live. Cumberland, Fishers, Geist, Hoosier Road and Lantern Road elementaries would be slightly above capacity.

    Option 2: Moves 3,747 students. About 51 percent of elementary students and 62 percent of intermediate students would attend the school closest to where they live. Durbin, Harrison Parkway, Hoosier Road and Lantern Road elementaries would be slightly above capacity.

    Option 3: Moves 4,159 students. About 60 percent of elementary students and 61 percent of intermediate students would attend the school closest to where they live. Fishers, Harrison Parkway, Hoosier Road,  Lantern Road, New Britton and Thorpe Creek elementaries would be slightly above capacity.

    All of the options relocate students, so entire elementary schools feed into an intermediate, rather than splitting up some classes across two intermediate schools.

    To see the three scenario maps, go to Hamilton Southeastern Schools' website.

    Why do this now?

    The redistricting was spurred by the addition of a 13th elementary school, Southeastern Elementary, which is expected to open in the fall.

    But the district also has overcrowding in many schools on the eastern side of Fishers, where the city is seeing more population growth. Thorpe Creek Elementary, for example, currently has 900 students but was built for 700.

    Why have people criticized the three options?

    Some residents have criticized the three options for not leaving enough room in intermediate schools on the east side — Fall Creek and Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate/Junior High — which could mean the district would need to redistrict sooner if the area's population continues to grow quickly.

    Could this get rid of portable classrooms?

    Probably not at first. The district is currently using around 30 portable classrooms. The temporary structures were used to house overflow students while the new elementary was being built. Last year Geist, Thorpe Creek and Brooks School elementaries used five, four and three portable classrooms, respectively.

    Administrators have said the redistricting and new elementary will cut down on the number of portables needed, but every option still leaves multiple schools over capacity. Eventually, administrators say, the district will stop using portables as its overall enrollment is expected to decline over the next 10 years.

    Who makes this decision, and when?

    Superintendent Allen Bourff will present his recommendation during a school board meeting in November. The board is then expected to take the final vote in December.

    Do parents get a say?

    The district is holding two "community dialogues" scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25, both at 6 p.m. They will be held at Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern high schools, respectively.

    Parents can also take on online survey and address the board during monthly school board meetings. The next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 14.

    Didn't we just do this?

    Families last dealt with redistricting in fall 2015. At that time, school officials said it was necessary to avoid crowding after seeing enrollment jump 16 percent over the prior five years.

    Will HSE have to do this again?

    In early conversations school board members warned that the district may need to redistrict again as Fisher's population continues to shift, but hoped it would be at least another five years.

    William Carnes, the district's interim assistant superintendent, pumped the brakes on discussion about redistricting the high schools this year, but said it could be a conversation after the K-8 redistricting.

    When the district redistricted in 2006 to open Fishers High School, the plan was to send 2,500 students to the new building, then split up Hamilton Southeastern High School again after a third school was built, administrators said. But the district decided not to build a third high school. 

    The district currently allows incoming freshmen to choose their high school based on programming, in an attempt to bolster numbers at Fishers High School. 

  • 23 Oct 2018 4:47 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Volunteer movement helped carry redistricting proposal to the ballot - MLive - by Lauren Gibbons

    As hundreds of boxes stuffed with signatures were passed hand to hand in front of the Michigan Secretary of State building in December 2017, Kyle Richardson realized he'd been a part of something special. 

    By that point, the Detroit resident had spent several months volunteering for the Voters Not Politicians campaign, collecting signatures throughout the metro area. He was new to this kind of campaign work, but threw himself into it because he believed in the cause of preventing political gerrymandering. 

    It took being surrounded by hundreds of his fellow volunteers turning in the hundreds of thousands of signatures they'd collected for him to understand what they'd accomplished. 

    "I didn't know how impactful or how big it was until that moment," he said. "None of us are in this because we want a certain tax policy, a certain education policy...we all just want to see our politicians work the way we were taught it worked." 

    The word-of-mouth campaign that Richardson and thousands of other volunteers spread across Michigan is the backbone of Proposal 2, which voters will see on the ballot Nov. 6.

    Despite a lack of paid petition gatherers and intense opposition that took the proposed initiative all the way to the state Supreme Court, Voters Not Politicians supporters managed to get a proposed Constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission on the statewide ballot.

    Now, they're hoping the same forces that got them this far will sway a majority of Michigan residents. 

    Where it all began

    Much of the credit for Proposal 2's existence goes to Katie Fahey, who founded Voters Not Politicians after posting a call to reform Michigan's redistricting system on Facebook. 

    In 2017, Fahey and other early Voters Not Politicians backers began touring the state, getting feedback from Michigan residents at forums and town halls as they set their sights on crafting an amendment to Michigan's Constitution. 

    "We weren't behind closed doors crafting this policy," Fahey said in a recent interview. "From day one, we were trying to create a solution the people of Michigan want." 

    The language Voters Not Politicians settled upon in Proposal 2 is meant to change the political redistricting process by circumventing politics as much as possible. 

    Where currently the state Legislature is tasked with drawing Michigan's state and federal political districts every 10 years based on population changes in the census, Proposal 2 would shift that responsibility to a 13-member independent redistricting commission consisting of five independent members, four self-declared Democrats and four self-declared Republicans.

    Elected officials, candidates, lobbyists and political consultants or staffers -- as well as family members of politicians or other insiders -- would be barred from participating within six years of their politically-affiliated position.

    The commissioners would be selected randomly from a pool of registered voters who submitted applications to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would be required to circulate commissioner applications to 10,000 registered Michigan voters at random from various regions of the state. 

    Final maps for congressional and state House and Senate lines would require majority approval and support from at least two Republicans, two Democrats and two independents on the commission. 

    It's a complicated plan - when the group was first cleared for signature gathering on the initiative in August 2017, state elections officials said it was one of the most complex they'd ever looked at, reviewing six drafts of the language before recommending it for approval. 

    Convincing the public

    From the outset, Fahey said it was going to be an all-volunteer effort, a tough challenge in a state where it takes more than 315,000 signatures collected in a 180-day period to get a Constitutional amendment on the ballot. 

    In addition to recruiting signature gatherers, Voters Not Politicians enlisted volunteers to educate their communities through outreach and public events across the state. 

    Portage resident Stacey Ledbetter said it had been years since she had volunteered for a political campaign, but she was convinced to volunteer after a friend of hers encouraged her to learn more about the effort. 

    Ledbetter's role is to explain to people why such a complicated political process should matter to them in a way anyone can understand. 

    "It clicked for me once it was explained in simple terms," she said.

    Fahey said the education aspect of the campaign is crucial to getting Proposal 2 through. 

    "There's not a lot of people who are pro-gerrymandering," she said. "Our ability to actually go and reach voters is really critical in our ability to be successful." 

    Many Voters Not Politicians supporters and volunteers were convinced by the campaign's assertion that the way political lines are currently drawn benefit the majority party and don't adequately reflect the communities Michigan voters live in.

    The Voters Not Politicians campaign ultimately collected more than enough signatures to make the 2018 ballot, and has since directed its attention to spreading the message to the general public.

    A separate challenge to Michigan's existing district lines is currently making its way through the federal courts, with League of Women Voters and other parties claiming Michigan's state and congressional districts drawn in 2011 under a Republican majority are gerrymandered in a way that violates Constitutional rights. 

    Fierce opposition

    Critics of the initiative fought hard to keep the Voters Not Politicians plan off the ballot, and the legal battle over the proposal went all the way to the Supreme Court. 

    In a 4-3 ruling, Supreme Court justices David Viviano, Bridget Mary McCormack, Richard Bernstein and Beth Clement concluded the plan put forward by Voters Not Politicians was not a general revision of the Constitution, and did not negatively impact powers assigned by the three branches of government. 

    The court's majority decision concurred with a unanimous decision from the state Court of Appeals, which compelled the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to place the Voters not Politicians measure on the ballot.

    That hasn't stopped the Michigan Republican Party and other conservative groups from speaking out against the proposal. Many have criticized the plan for too broadly limiting who is allowed to be on the commission, and have questioned the legitimacy of a redistricting system with minimal checks from other areas of government. 

    Protect My Vote, a group opposing Proposal 2, recently released a radio ad claiming the proposal would write a "blank check" to the commissioners and would have no limits to pay or perks. Voters Not Politicians refuted the ad's claims and issued requests to radio stations asking for it to be taken down.

    Tony Daunt, spokesperson for Protect My Vote, said in a statement voters oppose Proposal 2 when they "learn the truth" about it. 

    "The proposal would cram this massive new bureaucracy and spending into the state's constitution, which means voters would have almost no recourse to do anything about it," he said. 

    At the Michigan Republican Party Convention, lingering dissent with the court's decision flared up during the nomination process, when opponents encouraged delegates to abstain from voting for sitting Supreme Court Justice Beth Clement over her decision to let Proposal 2 on the ballot. Clement earned the nomination despite the opposition. 

    Backers of Proposal 2 have stressed the bipartisan nature of their cause, highlighting support from former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz and others across the political spectrum. 

    Elizabeth Benyi first attended a Voters Not Politicians presentation in February 2017, and said she didn't realize until that point how big of an issue redistricting was in Michigan. 

    Since she signed up as a volunteer, the retired surgeon has traversed the western Upper Peninsula wearing several hats for the campaign - signature collector, educator, outreach coordinator. As she stood outside bars and restaurants with a signature sheet in hand, or answered questions during a presentation, Benyi said she never got the sense it was a partisan issue for voters or the people who want Proposal 2 to succeed. 

    "It is a true grassroots movement," she said. "We are nonpartisan volunteers from every political persuasion, as are the people who signed the petition."

    National attention 

    As the election approaches, Voters Not Politicians has seen support come from prominent national voices, perhaps most notably from Republican actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

    Michigan is just one of several states considering an independent redistricting commission this year - voters in Colorado, Missouri and Utah will also see similar proposals on their ballots - and Schwarzenegger, a longtime advocate for redistricting reform, has been fundraising for these efforts since the summer. 

    On Saturday, Schwarzenegger rallied in East Lansing with Voters Not Politicians supporters, praising Fahey and other volunteers for realizing there was an issue and stepping up to try and fix the problem.

    "It's easy to complain, but then to go up and say, 'I'm going to do something about it' - that's what she did," he said, referring to Fahey. "I'm so proud that all of you are here today."

    David Daley, author of the book "Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count," has extensively studied the impacts of politically-motivated redistricting in various parts of the U.S.

    During a recent visit to Michigan to support Proposal 2, Daley said Voters Not Politicians volunteers are taking a dry, complicated issue "and injecting life and passion into it," calling the initiative one of the most amazing stories in the country this election cycle.

    "This feels like a big, structural, entrenched problem, but people working together can take that power back," he said. "This is just an amazing example of how democracy can work. It's just really inspiring."

    More information about the Nov. 6 midterm elections:

    Polls will be open in Michigan from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. Check Michigan's Secretary of State website to see whether you are registered and to preview your ballot.

    MLive has partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan Education Fund to provide candidate information and other voting resources to Michigan readers. 

    The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. For specific information about the three statewide ballot proposals and other Michigan races, visit 

  • 19 Oct 2018 1:33 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)
    Pennsylvania Adventures In Redistricting And How They Could Impact Midterms - WBUR - by Meghna Chakrabaarti

    "In boost for Democrats, Pa. Supreme Court dramatically overhauls state’s congressional map" — "In a decision which could have national ramifications, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has enacted a new congressional district map that onlookers say is much more favorable to Democrats, replacing one the court overturned and deemed an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander last month.

    "Justices described the new map in their 48-page decision as 'superior or comparable' to other proposals filed for their consideration. It’s more compact, they wrote, and splits only 13 counties and 19 municipalities. That’s fewer than half the number of county splits and far less municipal splits than the 2011 map, which was drawn in a process controlled by Republicans.

    "The court’s version also splits fewer counties than the proposals it received in the past 10 days from Gov. Tom Wolf, GOP leaders, and House and Senate Democrats. The recent proposal from GOP leaders, though, split two fewer municipalities."

    Bloomberg: "Pennsylvania Offers a Key Midterm Test for Trumpism" — "Inside the headquarters of the Republican Committee of Chester County, Pa., a Bush-Cheney poster hangs behind Executive Director Thomas Donohue’s desk. A second poster praises 'Fiscally Responsible Republican Leadership.'

    "It’s a testament to the fact that Pennsylvania’s most affluent and educated county, home to quaint Philadelphia suburbs, embraces a more traditional flavor of Republicanism. Donohue—a polite millennial in khakis and boat shoes, like a quintessential ambassador for the old guard—says the party is pushing a 'bottom-up' approach ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, focusing on popular local candidates.

    "Conservatives are on the defensive in Chester, as they are across Pennsylvania. Donald Trump won the state by just 44,000 votes, turning it red for the first time since 1988. But the momentum is shifting: After a court-mandated redistricting tipped the scale toward Democrats, they appear to have a shot at four or five open or Republican House seats here. The results in Pennsylvania will go a long way toward determining which party ultimately controls the House next year.

    "That will hinge, in part, on how voters in Pennsylvania’s two-track economy view the Republican agenda. Conservatives in eastern swing districts are keeping their distance from a president who plays poorly with their affluent and educated constituents. Western Pennsylvania Republicans in tight races are embracing Trump’s policies, which appeal to Rust Belt voters, but Democrats are punching back with centrist, blue-collar appeal.

    New York Times: "We polled voters in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District." — "This district’s map was redrawn to a bluer shade. We made calls 23,562, and 539 people spoke to us.

    "Given expectations, our poll is a good result for Democrats. But remember: It’s just one poll, and we talked to only 539 people. Each candidate’s total could easily be five points different if we polled everyone in the district. And having a small sample is only one possible source of error." 

  • 8 Oct 2018 12:55 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Va. GOP leader cancels vote on redistricting plan, accuses governor of partisan obstruction - Washington Post - Gregory S. Schneider

    RICHMOND — Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox has canceled the legislative session he had set for Oct. 21 to take up a state redistricting plan, citing Gov. Ralph Northam’s opposition.

    A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has given the state until Oct. 30 to come up with a plan to correct 11 state House districts that it said were racially gerrymandered.

    Without action by the General Assembly, the court will redraw the boundaries itself.

    [Northam threatens veto over GOP redistricting plan]

    Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and other GOP House leaders have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court but had pledged to pass a plan before the deadline. He said earlier this week that the House would convene Oct. 21 to vote on a plan approved by a committee late last month.

    Though the GOP redistricting plan was prepared with input from a handful of Democrats, it passed the committee on a straight party-line vote. On Tuesday, Northam (D) said that if Cox called the House back to approve that plan, he would veto it.

    [Va. GOP leaders accuse Democrats of ‘disingenuous’ plan to block redistricting]

    “I am rescinding my call for the House of Delegates to reconvene because I do not think we should waste legislators’ time or taxpayer money on a session when the governor’s mind is evidently made up,” Cox said in a news release Friday evening. He said Northam believes the court will draw up a plan more favorable to Democrats.

    Northam has called on the General Assembly to act next spring to create a nonpartisan mechanism for drawing legislative districts.

    The 11 districts in the court’s ruling are in Hampton Roads and greater Richmond, but redrawing their boundaries will affect other districts around them. Control of the House of Delegates hangs in the balance; Republicans are clinging to a 50-to-49 majority in the 100-seat chamber. One longtime Republican-held district faces a special election later this year because a Roanoke-area delegate stepped down. 

  • 8 Oct 2018 12:50 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    North Carolina legislative remap challenges still in court - Associated Press - by Gary D. Robertson

    RALEIGH, N.C. — Court arguments on General Assembly district lines that Republican legislators originally approved seven years ago have yet to be exhausted as state judges Friday weighed whether lines for several House seats should revert to how they were drawn in 2011.

    At issue are provisions in North Carolina's constitution that say state legislative districts "shall remain unaltered" until the release of each decade's census numbers. There are exceptions to this mid-decade redistricting ban when courts order changes, as they have in the 2010s.

    The U.S. Supreme Court said in June that a lower federal court went too far in ruling 2017 map changes in Mecklenburg and Wake counties violated the state constitution's prohibition of mid-decade redistricting because it wasn't the lower court's job to decide. The alterations were part of a larger remap by the General Assembly and an outside expert after the same lower court had declared nearly 30 House and Senate districts were illegal racial gerrymanders.

    Before the justices ruled, the state NAACP, League of Women Voters, other groups and voters had already sued in state court saying four Wake state House districts violated the mid-decade prohibition. They wanted the districts returned to their 2011 shapes.

    Allison Riggs, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the state judges Friday that altering the Wake districts adjoining two districts that had been struck down for racial bias was proper, but the four other districts weren't unlawful and should have been left alone. Her clients argue that Republicans changed three of the four districts to improve chances for Republican election victories this fall.

    The three-judge panel didn't rule immediately from the bench after two hours of oral arguments. The case won't affect this fall's election but could alter the map in 2020, a year before the next round of redistricting begins based on census figures.

    Riggs told the panel that past state redistricting cases show the mid-decade prohibition "must be enforced to the maximum extent possible," provided it doesn't contradict federal law.

    "You don't have to change every district in the county to correct the racial gerrymander" found by federal judges in the two districts, Riggs told the state judges.

    Phil Strach, a lawyer for Republican mapmakers, told the judges redrawing more Wake districts was one way to comply with both the federal court ruling that found the 28 racially gerrymandered districts and the prohibition. Strach cited a previous court opinion suggesting the legislature could redraw districts that were "directly and indirectly affected" by a court decision.

    "There's a menu of options and a menu of possible reasonable options, and this court is bound to accept the one that the legislature used as reasonable," Strach said.

    Strach said mapmakers in 2011 drew the two Wake County House districts that contained black voting-age majorities first, followed by the others. So when those two districts were struck down, he said, they had a "ripple effect" on the rest of the county districts. But Riggs mentioned other proposed maps that showed the racial gerrymanders could be corrected without making more changes.

    The judges already have hinted at their inclination toward those who sued. In April, when the panel declined to prevent the four districts from being used in the November elections because it was too close to the May primary, the judges wrote that the plaintiffs nonetheless had "demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claims."  

  • 11 Aug 2018 11:33 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Independent redistricting plan will be on ballot, Supreme Court rules - MLive Media Group - by Lauren Gibbons

    A proposal to implement an independent redistricting commission in Michigan will be on the November ballot, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled. 

    In a 4-3 ruling released around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Supreme Court justices David Viviano, Bridget Mary McCormack, Richard Bernstein and Beth Clement determined the ballot initiative put forward by the group Voters Not Politicians passed state constitutional muster. 

    The majority opinion concluded that the plan put forward by Voters Not Politicians was not a general revision of the Constitution, and did not negatively impact powers assigned by the three branches of government. 

    The court's majority decision concurred with a unanimous decision from the state Court of Appeals, which compelled the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to place the Voters not Politicians measure on the ballot after determining the initiative passed constitutional muster. 

    "Our holding here reflects the constitutional text, our historical experience, logic, and the wisdom of other states," the opinion reads. "We conclude that VNP's proposal does not create the equivalent of a new constitution by significantly altering or abolishing the form or structure of our government and is, instead, a permissible voter-initiated amendment."

    Dissenting opinions was authored by Chief Justice Stephen Markman and Kurtis Wilder, both of which were joined by Justice Brian Zahra.

    The plan, put forward by Voters Not Politicians, would amend the Michigan Constitution to create a 13-member independent redistricting commission in time for the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census. 

    The commission would be made up of five independents, four Democrats and four Republicans. The proposal placed several restrictions on who can be selected in an attempt to fully separate redistricting from the political process, which is currently controlled by the state Legislature.

    In a statement following the decision, Voters Not Politicians founder and executive director Katie Fahey said supporters are "ecstatic" the proposal will be on the November ballot.

    "Hundreds of thousands of voters signed their name to have the chance to vote to bring the redistricting process out in the open," she said. "Michigan voters are ready for a transparent redistricting process, where election district lines represent the people - not special interests."

    In his dissenting opinion, Markman disagreed with the court's finding, concluding the matter was a general revision of the Constitution and not an amendment and also taking issue with the argument that the "people" must decide regardless of the proposal's merits. 

    "The 'people' have been referenced frequently during oral argument and by the majority opinion, as if merely to invoke their name compels the conclusion that the present measure must be placed on the ballot," Markman's dissent reads. "After assessing the interests of the 'people' in this matter, I believe that what is most significant is that these 'people' have made it reasonably clear that the permanent things of their  Constitution are not to be cast away lightly."

    If passed, the Voters Not Politicians plan would insert in place of the current system "the governance of 13 randomly selected 'people' entirely lacking in any democratic or electoral relationship with the other 10 million 'people' of this state or their elected representatives," Markman wrote in the dissent. 

    Over a span of several months, Voters Not Politicians built up a formidable volunteer staff, putting thousands of people passionate about redistricting reform to work collecting signatures, educating prospective voters and organizing new recruits. 

    The group turned in 427,075 signatures, of which state elections staff determined 394,092 were valid. The initiative needed 315,654 signatures to be considered for final ballot approval.

    Voters Not Politicians has faced stiff opposition almost from the start from groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Republican Party, who have tried to frame the matter as an effort by progressives to wrest political control from Republicans. 

    When the court heard arguments on the matter July 18, Michigan's solicitor general and the group Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution argued the Voters Not Politicians plan is a "sweeping, radical change" of the Constitution that departs from decades of existing precedent on how political district lines are drawn.

    Attorney Peter Ellsworth also argued the proposal would create a "super agency" with no checks and balances of power from voters or branches of government that would perform a key government function. 

    The Supreme Court's majority opinion found that was not the case - the justices concluded that although the legislature has been in control of redistricting since 1996, "the current state of affairs is a deviation from what the voters chose when they ratified the 1963 Constitution."

    "The Legislature has no such role in the 1963 Constitution's commission," the majority opinion reads. "If anything, then VNP's proposal increases, slightly, the Legislature's participation in the process over the level contemplated in 1963." 

    Supporters of redistricting reform have argued the status quo of politicians picking their own districts is fundamentally flawed. Voters Not Politicians organizers have long said their efforts are nonpartisan and point to Republicans and Democrats alike who have signed onto their proposal. 

    During Supreme Court arguments, Voters Not Politicians attorney Graham Crabtree argued the Constitution "does not allow a fine parsing of whether this or that is germane." 

    "The duty of this court is to allow it to go on the ballot so the people can have their say," he said.

    Even before the Supreme Court ruled, Voters Not Politicians was already looking ahead to next steps. The group raised more than $700,000 from April to July, and released its first statewide television ad last week.

  • 11 Aug 2018 11:29 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Redistricting Reformers Looking Outside The Box For Legislative Options - 90.5 WESA - by Katie Meyer

    After a year of campaigning and months of legislative debate, it’s likely too late for state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment overhauling Pennsylvania’s redistricting process before the next map-redrawing gets underway in 2021.

    So now, reform advocates are exploring alternative options.

    Critics of the map-drawing methods for congressional and state legislative districts have spent months insisting state lawmakers have too much power over the process—and saying that leads to political gerrymandering and incumbent protection.  

    Despite some tortured progress toward creating a citizen redistricting commission this spring, the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a plan in time for the two-session amendment process to start.

    But Carol Kuniholm, with Fair Districts PA, said the group’s still looking into legal options to get an amendment done on a shortened timeline.

    Plus, she said if that fails, lawmakers don’t need an amendment to change the congressional district-drawing process—or to make a number of smaller changes.

    “You know, rules on having it be a public process, not being allowed to use partisan data, having to give reasons for splitting communities or municipalities or, particularly, for splitting counties,” she said.

    Lawmakers return to Harrisburg from their summer break next month.

    Kuniholm said the group won’t start lobbying in earnest until the new session starts in January—noting, they’re hoping lawmakers who are more amenable to their ideas win the midterm elections.

  • 11 Aug 2018 11:24 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Oil Industry Supports County Redistricting Effort - Santa Barbra Independent - by Nick Welsh 

    Oil industry interests contributed more than half the $121,000 raised to collect signatures needed to qualify a controversial initiative slated for this November’s ballot asking voters whether they want to create an independent redistricting committee for the five Santa Barbara County supervisorial districts. The initiative is promoted by a group calling itself Reason in Government, claiming to speak for the “radical center.” The creation of an independent redistricting committee, they insisted, would remove the taint of political gerrymandering from the redistricting process, which will begin only after the 2020 Census results are in. Their critics have insisted the proposed committee would give Republicans representation disproportionate to their actual numbers and was really a front group to dilute the impact of Isla Vista’s reliably liberal voting bloc.

    Liberal supervisors, such as Das Williams, insisted the effort was a political maneuver by oil companies and North County economic interests. Recent campaign disclosure reports indicate that the California Independent Petroleum Association’s Political Action Committee, called CIPAC, donated $46,000 to the effort and that individuals and trusts associated with Vaquero Energy — now proposing new onshore oil development — gave $13,500. Most contributions came from North County businesspeople, several came from San Luis Obispo developers, and none came from South County sources. Paid gatherers collected more than 16,000 signatures. Supervisors had no choice but to place the matter before voters countywide.

    Supervisor Williams, working with Democratic Party consultant Mary Rose, crafted a competing measure to create an independent committee that would be more broadly based, with more members and greater representation for Democrats and independents. Voters will have a choice of which measure they prefer.

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