Activism Politics Uncategorized

On the Ballot: Protecting and Promoting Voting Rights in Michigan

Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) student organizers across Michigan are working on six college campuses to turnout the vote in favor of Propositions 2 and 3, two ballot measures that would help promote and protect statewide voting rights.

“At their core, Propositions 2 and 3 are about equal representation and access. Both will promote racial and economic justice by working to remove the systemic barriers that too often burden people of color and working people when voting,” explains Shivani Desai, FMF Senior Midwest Organizer. “If passed this year, these ballot measures could help protect and promote voting rights for future elections, benefiting Michigan families and communities for years to come.”

Proposition 18-2 seeks to amend the Michigan Constitution and establish an independent committee of citizens for Congressional redistricting, in an effort to end gerrymandering, the practice through which politicians draw maps that benefit their own party. Passing Prop 2, a measure placed on the ballot through voter signature collection of half a million Michiganders, would set up an independent commission of thirteen voters who would set districts and boundaries following each census, rather than leaving it to politicians and lobbyists.

Currently in Michigan, the party in power at the time of census is given full control of redistricting efforts. The proposition, instead, would create a commission that would be comprised of thirteen citizens randomly selected by the Secretary of State, including four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independent voters. If passed, the commission would meet in public places to promote transparency, giving community members the chance to participate and provide feedback. The committee would also be held to strict regulations in order to avoid more unfair mapping practices.

The other ballot measure, Proposition 18-3, addresses voting policies in the state constitution, aiming to make voting more open and accessible to all in Michigan. Passing this measure would remove several complications from registration and voting through practical steps such as implementing automatic voter registration; allowing eligible citizens to register at any time; providing absentee ballot for any reason; auditing election results for fairness and accuracy; and more.

At a student activist training held by the Feminist Majority Foundation earlier this month, students were given the chance to hear from Michigan activists Marsha Lommel from Voters Not Politicians, the organization responsible for getting Proposition 2 on the ballot, as well as Angela Dawe representing Promote the Vote, the local organization advocating for Proprosition 3. Both activists stressed the long-term impacts such ballot measures could have on creating more fair and representative elections that better uplift Michigan voices and equally reflect the will of the people.

According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, Michigan is currently one of America’s three most heavily gerrymandered states. Maps from the last redistricting efforts from 2011 help confirm this. Leaked emails between Republican aids uncovered a plan to pack Democratic districts and shove “Dem Garbage” into certain districts, leaving several other districts disproportionately Republican in order to benefit GOP candidates. Along with partisan intent, gerrymandering has historically harmed communities of color, as part of a long pattern of voter disenfranchisement efforts. Scholars and racial justice activists point out the disproportionate silencing effects gerrymandering has on Black communities, as well as the racist intent behind such practices. Indeed the Michigan 2011 emails revealed efforts to reassign Black voters to the same districts in order to weaken representation across Michigan. Proposition 18-2 will attempt to address and mitigate these unfair practices.

Additionally, an automatic registration measure, similar to the one proposed in 18-3, was passed in Oregon in 2016, resulting in a 4% jump in turnout from 2012 to 2016, compared to only a 1.6% increase in voter turnout nationally. Further, in Michigan 2016, over 35% of registered voters did not make it to the polls or cast their ballot, in part due to barriers such as being unable to take time from work or find affordable child care on Election Day. The absentee ballot reform in Proposition 3 would provide viable alternatives to those hindered by these costs.

 

Media Resources: Voters Not Politicians; Promote the Vote; Princeton Gerrymandering Project; The Detroit News 7/26/18; The Nation 7/27/17; The Brenna Center 1/29/16

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