Anti-Gerrymandering Reforms Sweep the Nation in 2018

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. – Game-changing proposals to end partisan gerrymandering passed in 3 states Tuesday — with the results of a 4th (Utah) pending — taking control of redistricting out of the hands of partisan politicians in favor of a nonpartisan system.

Nonpartisan redistricting proposals were on the ballot in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah. Though each proposal differs to various degrees, the goal for all of them was the same: implement a redistricting system that puts the interests of voters ahead of party scheming.

The challenge in getting these proposals passed also varied from state to state. Some of the proposals had zero registered opposition, while others had to survive court challenges and oppositions from partisan and moneyed interests.

Colorado

Amendments Y and Z create 12-member independent redistricting commissions for congressional and state legislative districts, respectively. The commissions will be comprised of 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 4 independents (registered unaffiliated in Colorado).

The amendments, proposed by Fair Maps Colorado, went into the 2018 midterms with the best chance of passing of any anti-gerrymandering proposal on the ballot. It had no registered opposition, was endorsed by both major political parties, and had ample support from nonpartisan groups and reformers.

Even with Colorado’s new requirement that constitutional amendments need at least 55% of the vote, they easily passed with over 70% support.

Amendments Y and Z direct the independent commissions to make electoral districts as competitive as possible, and requires a supermajority to approve new maps — including a minimum of 2 independents to help ensure the parties don’t just scheme to divide territory.

Further, the amendments require the process to be open to the public. Commissions must have at least 3 public hearings in each congressional district (there are 7), and records produced by the commissions must also be open to the public.

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Michigan

Voters Not Politicians is an astonishing story of nonpartisan activism. It inadvertently began with a single Facebook post from Founder and Executive Director Katie Fahey about the need for change. From there, it blew up into a movement.

Voters Not Politicians garnered over 400,000 signatures to qualify Proposal 2 for the ballot. Proposal 2 creates a 13-member citizens’ redistricting commission  made up of 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 5 independents or third party members to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

The proposal hit some roadblocks on its way to November, including a legal challenge that was thrown out by the Michigan Supreme Court. I spoke with Katie Fahey not long after the Michigan to discuss the lawsuit and the campaign. Listen below:

The partisan and special interests that turned to the court to kill Proposal 2 continued to run an opposition campaign, but failed to sway enough voters against the anti-gerrymandering reform. It was approved with over 60% of the vote.

Missouri

Missouri’s anti-gerrymandering proposal — Amendment 1 — stands out from the rest for a couple reasons:

(1) It isn’t just a proposal for nonpartisan redistricting, but a comprehensive good government amendment that tackles transparency, campaign finance, the revolving door from the legislature to lobbying, and bans most lobbyist gifts to state lawmakers.

(2) It creates a new state position  of state demographer, whose primary responsibility will be to draw state legislative maps. The position is filled by the state auditor within a carefully crafted set of instructions on who they can hire. The demographer must follow certain criteria and procedures to maximize competitiveness and nonpartisan factors.

Clean Missouri collected over 230,000 signatures to get Amendment 1 on the ballot. Like Michigan, though, it too needed to survive a legal challenge from some Republican insiders and special interest groups.

Amendment 1 was endorsed by thirteen editorial boards, and a broad coalition of people and groups from across the political spectrum, including former and current policymakers on both sides of the partisan aisle, and several nonpartisan groups committed to good government reform.

Despite pushback from some special interest groups, voters approved Amendment 1 with 62% of the vote.

Utah

Better Boundaries Utah garnered over 190,000 signatures to get its Proposition 4 on the November ballot.

Proposition 4 creates a 7-member citizens’ redistricting commission, comprised of 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, two independents, and a chair that is appointed by the governor. The proposal requires 5 members to approve new maps.

This proposal is also unique in that no one who has held or run for office in the past 4 years, has been in the leadership of a political party, been a lobbyist, or has been appointed or worked for a government body may serve on the commission.

Polling leading up to election night looked favorable for Proposition 4. As of the writing of this article, though, the results were still too close to call. Stay tuned for updates on this race.

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / shutterstock.com