Pre-Election Rundown: 4 Ballot Measures to Deal Historic Blow to Partisan Gerrymandering

Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah are voting on whether to hand control over drawing electoral districts to independent redistricting commissions.

With two weeks to go, here’s a rundown of what these ballot questions would do, who’s for and against, and their prospects of winning.

Fair Maps Colorado – Amendments Y and Z

In Colorado, there are twin constitutional amendments on the ballot backed by Fair Maps Colorado. Amendment Y sets up a multi-partisan independent redistricting commission with a nonpartisan staff to draw new districts for Congress. Amendment Z does the same for state legislative districts.

What it does: The measures set up two 12-member citizens’ commissions to approve new districts for congressional and legislative districts. The commissions consist of four registered voters from each of the two largest political parties and four unaffiliated voters. The maps must follow set criteria including maximizing competition and avoiding schemes to favor incumbents or parties. Maps are reviewed publicly via regional hearings and a fully transparent process. The final maps need a two-thirds vote.

Who’s for and against: It’s endorsed by every living Colorado governor, unions, businesses, nonprofit advocacy groups, good government organizations, and the state legislature. There is no registered opposition.

Why it will win: Responding to public pressures, it’s the first constitutional amendment ever to get a unanimous vote of the legislature to qualify for the ballot. It’s expected to pass the winning threshold — 55% of all voters who participate in the election.

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Clean Missouri – Amendment 1

In Missouri, the Clean Missouri coalition collected 231,000 signatures to get Amendment 1 on the ballot. The citizen-initiated constitutional amendment addresses redistricting, lobbying, and campaign finance.

What it does: Part of the comprehensive good government plan creates a new nonpartisan position of state demographer, whose chief responsibility will be to draw state legislative maps. The hiring is managed by the state auditor within a careful set of instructions on who they can hire. The demographer must follow criteria and procedures that maximize political competition and nonpartisan factors. The process is public and transparent.

Who’s for and against: Amendment 1 has the backing of many of the state’s largest newspapers, former and current election officials, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, and a range of public interest groups. The main public opposition is the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and some leaders in the Republican Party.

Why it will win: The amendment features popular reforms limiting lobbying, money in politics, and gerrymandered districts. Some say it’s too broad. But Clean Missouri is riding a wave of political reform. An August poll had 61% yes, 18% no, and the rest undecided. Large spending on opposition ads in the final weeks could reduce this margin. It wins if a simple majority of voters approve it.

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Voters Not Politicians – Proposition 2

In Michigan, Voters Not Politicians collected over 400,000 signatures to get a constitutional amendment, Proposal 2, on the November ballot. The campaign came out of a huge response to a single Facebook post after the 2016 election by campaign director Katie Fahey.

What it does: The constitutional amendment gives power to a 13-member independent redistricting commission to be made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents or members of third parties to draw congressional and legislative districts.

The amendment requires an affirmative vote of at least seven members — a minimum of two Democrats and two Republicans and two members not affiliated with the major parties — to pass a redistricting plan. The amendment requires transparency, public hearings, and adhering to specific nonpartisan criteria.

Who’s for and against: It’s a voter-driven campaign with a long list of endorsements, mainly by community-based organizations, faith organizations, and good government groups like the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. It’s backed by the Detroit Free Press and other newspapers. It’s opposed by the Republican Party, which currently controls the redistricting process.

Why it will win: Support has been rising in the polls. As of early October, it was 55% yes, 23% no, and 22% undecided. It wins if a simple majority of voters approve it.

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Better Boundaries Utah – Proposition 4

In Utah, the Better Boundaries Utah citizen-led coalition canvassed the state for 190,000 signatures to get Proposition 4 on the ballot. The proposal has multi-partisan support in a state where 40% of voters are registered as unaffiliated or with a third party.

What it does: The voter initiated ballot measure creates a seven-member citizen independent redistricting commission. It includes two Democrats, two Republicans, and two unaffiliated voters. The governor appoints the chair. At least five or more must agree on a plan. No one that has held or run for political office in the past four years, has been active in the leadership of a political party, been a lobbyist, or has been appointed or worked for a government official may serve. Like others, it requires transparency, public input, and a baseline of criteria.

Who’s for and against: The campaign has the support of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Serve America Movement (SAM), Utah League of Women Voters, Utah Citizens’ Counsel, and a long list of individual voters. Its only opposition is from the Republican House speaker, whose party has controlled the process in the past.

Why it will win: Utah voters are notably independent and oppose political corruption. A September poll showed 52% yes, 18% no, and the rest undecided. The measure wins if a simple majority of voters say “yes.”

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