Redistricting group launches ad push; won't wait for Supreme Court OK
A committee spearheading a ballot initiative that would change the way the state draws voting district boundaries is launching an advertising campaign ahead of a Michigan Supreme Court decision about its ballot eligibility.
The campaign to educate voters on the issue “can’t wait” for a decision from the state’s highest court, said David Waymire, a spokesman for the ballot committee Voters Not Politicians.
The Supreme Court heard arguments last week about whether the Voters Not Politicians proposal is too broad to be considered a simple amendment. The proposal would establish an independent citizens redistricting commission by adding more than 3,000 words to the Michigan Constitution and changing or striking 11 separate sections.
“Quite frankly we don’t know when they’re going to make their decision,” Waymire said Tuesday. “So we can’t wait.”
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office asked the seven justices to make a decision by early August so ballots can be finalized in early September.
The one-minute ad asking voters to vote yes on redistricting proposal is a way to “jump-start” the conversation while people are paying attention to the primaries, Waymire said.
“The more people understand this issue, the more they like it,” he said.
When asked whether the ad campaign was a “subtle nudge” to the Supreme Court, Waymire said the group already sent its message lat week to the justices.
The ad is expected to run for the next two weeks statewide on television and social media. Waymire would not say how much had been spent on the ad buy.
The committee had raised about $790,705 through the first quarter of this year, according to an April report. Boasting a grassroots effort, the group also has knocked on 75,000 doors since June.
The ad shows images of disjointed voting districts, film from the rally outside the Supreme Court hearing last week and video clips from Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy — a nod to the group’s nonpartisan push for the change, said VNP Executive Director Katie Fahey.
“When politicians in Lansing manipulate the process by picking their own voters, it undermines our democracy,” a narrator says in the ad. “It’s called gerrymandering and President Ronald Reagan called it a national disgrace.”
Attorneys for Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, have argued the ballot effort constitutes a revision of the state constitution, which would call for a constitutional convention instead of a ballot initiative.
Republicans wrote the current political maps in 2011 and could do so again in 2021 if they retain control of the state Legislature.
Democrats haven’t formally endorsed the proposal, but often complain about alleged GOP “gerrymandering." The state party’s former chairman is the lead attorney in a separate federal lawsuit challenging the fairness of the current maps.
Opponents have claimed the effort is the brainchild of the Democratic Party, and would diminish the rights of citizens who voted for the legislators redrawing the maps.
Fahey pushed back on the argument Tuesday, noting the current system is done with a “complete lack of transparency,” while the proposed changes would allow for public input and require public meetings during the redistricting process.
“People don’t trust politicians and they are ready to take their power back,” she said.