Voters Not Politicians held a town hall meeting Thursday, Nov. 7, in Wayne State’s General Lectures, to discuss eligibility for students interested in becoming members of the statewide commission that will redraw political districts for Michigan in 2022.
Voters Not Politicians started as a non-partisan grassroots effort to spearhead the Michigan ballot initiative, Proposal 2, in 2018. Proposal 2 ended partisan gerrymandering by mandating Michigan to establish an independent commission every ten years to redraw district boundaries. The proposal passed with over 60 percent of the vote, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“Michiganders decided they didn't want gerrymandering anymore and instead chose a fair transparent process led by citizens,” Jamie Lyons Eddy, the director of campaigns and programs for Voters Not Politicians said. “Now, there is a constitutional amendment in Michigan law that says that our redistricting will be done now by a citizens commission of 13 people.”
The commission will be made up of randomly chosen Michigan citizens, of which four will be Democrats, four will be Republicans and five independents with no party affiliation.
Members of the commission will be paid 25 percent of the governor's salary, will be able to set their own workplace policies, hire employees and cannot be fired from their current jobs, Eddy said.
“So, why should you personally apply? First of all, there's only going to be 13 people in the world that can put on their resume that they served in Michigan's very first independent citizens redistricting convention,” Eddy said. “But it’s also a decent job. You don't need any special skills to be on the commission. You only need is to be able to listen and to be able to commit to being fair and representative and serving your state.”
However, there are some restrictions on who can apply for the commission.
“There are a few exclusions, for example politicians are not allowed to be on the commission,” Eddy said. “You can't have something personal to gain by drawing the maps a certain way. So persons like elected officials, partisan candidates, registered lobbyists and their immediate families are precluded from serving. Immediate family, by the way, means parents, children and spouses — that's it.”
The application process began in October and will be open to June 1, 2020. To apply for the commission, you will need to fill out an application and have it notarized by a legal notary. Starting Dec. 2, every Michigan Secretary of State office will have a notary, who will notarize applications for free, according to Eddy.
Professor Timothy Bledsoe, who invited Eddy to speak for his American Government class, said he hoped every WSU student who qualifies will apply for the position.
“What I’m concerned about is that it will be all senior citizens applying for the commission. We want young people to be represented as well,” Bledsoe said. “We are talking about getting a campus chapter of Voters Not Politicians started here at WSU. That way we can host events to help students' apply and have a notary on hand to notarize students applications.”
“There’s nothing to lose by applying. It’s a great way to get your start in public office. Here, you just put your name in, and it's all a matter of luck. Whether you get drawn or somebody else gets drawn, you have as good a chance of getting selected as a rich guy in Bloomfield Hills.”
Sean Taormina is The South End’s features editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.