Redistricting proposal heard by Michigan Supreme Court
The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday morning but not before hundreds of people gathered outside the Hall of Justice to voice their support of a ballot initiative being challenged that would change the way state and congressional districts are drawn.
The court heard arguments about a voter initiate, backed by the group Voters Not Politicians (VNP), that calls to change the Michigan Constitution and create an “Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and authorize the Commission to adopt reapportionment plans for Congressional, State Senate and State House of Representatives districts.”
The seven-member Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides for roughly 90 minutes Wednesday. In the end, adjourned the hearing leaving both sides left to speculate on a ruling.
“What I heard is that our constitution is enshrined in letting the people of our state decide these issues,” said VNP Founder and Executive Director Katie Fahey.
“We had a civil discussion, in front of the courts, obviously we have a difference of opinions, but there were a lot of good questions asked by the justices and it was where this decision should be made from,” said David Doyle, spokesperson for the Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution.
Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution argue that the proposal would alter the Michigan Constitution too much and requires a Constitutional Convention to make such changes.
“This is not something that should be done with a simple amendment, this is a wholesale review of the constitution,” Doyle said.
For Fahey, the debate over allowing this petition to appear on the November ballot comes down to one thing, “I think it’s a fight about whether the people of Michigan can be trusted to amend our own constitution or not.”
Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution also argues VNP did not publish all of the articles of the constitution that would be changed on their original petition.
“So people signing the petition had no way of knowing all of the areas that they were changing,” Doyle said.
Fahey said Wednesday that she believes VNP’s legal team, “did a fantastic job” explaining to the justices the plan to create the new redistricting commission.
“This is one scope, it’s the redistricting process, and in order to change that, it is comprehensive but it’s only limited to that one subject,” Fahey explained.
On June 22, Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief with the Supreme Court in opposition to placing VNP’s proposal on the ballot stating, “...Because the proposal at issue here makes numerous changes that alter the fundamental division of powers within our government, it proposes a revision, not a mere amendment, and it therefore cannot be accomplished through the petition process. Accordingly, this Court should grant the plaintiffs’ application for leave to appeal and should order the Secretary and the Board to reject the proposed initiative petition.”
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, VNP filed the petition on December 18, 2017. The group said their volunteers collected 425,000 signatures that support the initiative.
Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution opposition filed a lawsuit on April 25 and the Michigan Court of Appeals voted 3-0 on June 7 and sided with VNP.
“The Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously voted to put our proposal on the ballot, saying the effort by the pro-gerrymandering group ‘Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution’ has ‘no merit,’” said Fahey in a statement.
It’s unclear when the justices will issue a ruling, but VNP is hoping for a decision by the end of July or early August at the latest.