Eric Holder, Wiki­media Commons

Democrats on a national level are taking an interest in Michigan state pol­itics. “In Michigan, the current elec­toral system is unfair and is so rigged that politi­cians can now pick their voters, instead of allowing cit­izens to choose their rep­re­sen­ta­tives,”  Eric Holder, former Pres­ident Barack Obama’s Attorney General, said. Holder’s national Demo­c­ratic redis­tricting group, “Voters Not Politi­cians,” recently announced a $250,000 donation to support the passage of Pro­posal 2, a Michigan ballot ini­tiative that would take the power of redis­tricting away from state law­makers and give it to an inde­pendent com­mission.

Holder claims con­gres­sional redis­tricting prac­tices have become par­tisan and unde­mo­c­ratic. But their solution is worse: It takes power out of the hands of the people and puts it into the hands of the unelected and unac­countable. Because of this, Michigan voters should reject Pro­posal 2.

Par­tisan ger­ry­man­dering is wrong because it is unde­mo­c­ratic, the Democrats argue. Why then do they want to get rid of it in an unde­mo­c­ratic way? Elec­tions are the way cit­izens of a democracy express their opinions. If the inde­pendent com­mission becomes biased, who is going to hold it accountable? The voters will have lost this power.

Pro­posal 2 gives redis­tricting power to a 13-member com­mission of four Democrats, four Repub­licans, and five Inde­pen­dents, ran­domly selected from a pool of appli­cants deemed qual­ified by Michigan’s sec­retary of state. The com­mission would sup­posedly produce maps that will not give an advantage to either political party.

Ini­tia­tives like this have been tried in several other states and the results show that they do not nec­es­sarily reduce par­tisan fighting. Both of Arizona’s com­mision-drawn political maps, for example, were taken to court, first by Democrats in 2002 and then by Repub­licans in 2010. There is no nor­mative or easy way to draw con­gres­sional dis­trict lines, regardless of who is doing the drawing.

It is also dif­ficult to prove whether a map is unduly par­tisan. In the most recent Supreme Court case on the issue, Benisek v. Lamone, Chief Justice John Roberts said a pro­posed test, meant to determine if a dis­trict had been unfairly ger­ry­man­dered, was a “soci­o­logical gob­bledygook.” The Court unan­i­mously rejected the chal­lenge to both Wisconsin’s and Maryland’s dis­trict maps because they said the maps were not so par­tisan as to  infringe upon the people’s con­sti­tu­tional rights of rep­re­sen­tation. Putting the respon­si­bility of redis­tricting into the hands of an unelected com­mission will not change that.

A new working paper by researchers at Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia Los Angeles and Yale Uni­versity sug­gests that com­mission-drawn maps actually made dis­tricts less com­pet­itive or more par­tisan than maps drawn by state leg­is­la­tures. Because of this, the researchers — John Hen­derson, Brian Hamel, and Aaron Goldzimer — suggest caution in over­hauling the political redis­tricting process. “[Inde­pendent com­mis­sions may not be as polit­i­cally-neutral as the­o­rized,” the researchers stated.

Democrats mis­takenly believe that an unelected com­mission will be less biased than elected offi­cials in drawing con­gres­sional juris­diction lines. This kind of faith stems from the old pro­gressive myth that neutral experts are pos­sible. This does not take into account the ten­dency in human nature to choose sides. People are par­tisan and political by nature — even inde­pendent com­mis­sions. Pro­posal 2 dilutes democracy, the very thing Democrats claim they want to fix. Instead of working within the bounds of normal pol­itics, they are seeking to cir­cumvent the system.

Pro­posal 2 bypasses the political process and the rule of the people. Democrats that do not like how Michigan state house members redis­trict should work to get them out of office in the next election. That is true democracy.   

Krystina Schurk is a student at the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship.