On Monday Oct. 8, representatives were brought face to face in Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center to debate the merits of Proposal 2.
A proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution intended to prevent gerrymandering, Proposal 2 will be on the ballot this November. Tony Daunt, representing the Michigan Freedom Fund, opposed Proposal 2 while Katie Fahey spoke in favor of the proposal on behalf of Voters Not Politicians, a group she founded that is responsible for crafting the proposal.
Fahey spoke first on why she believes the the amendment is necessary. She described the current issues with Michigan’s congressional districts.
“Virtually none of our statewide elections are competitive,” Fahey said, mentioning that Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, two culturally interconnected cities, are in separate congressional districts. “I think those lines were drawn for political influence.”
Proposal 2 would establish an independent committee to draw congressional districts made up of citizens offered the position in a manner similar to jury duty. The committee would have equal numbers of registered republicans and democrats as well as independents.
Fahey argued that this would help to ensure that districts are drawn fairly, explaining that since those drawing the districts are not also elected by those districts, they have less motivation than those in congress to meddle with district lines. She also assured the audience that transparency would work to prevent corruption. The tools and methods used to draft district lines would be public knowledge.
“You should be able to replicate those results,” Fahey said, stating that if the results are not replicable, they can be challenged in court.
She finished her turn at the podium by speaking on the topic of mirroring. Michigan voters, she explained, are split nearly 50/50 in support of both parties. Therefore, she argued, our representation should reflect that, but Republicans currently hold a strong majority in the senate.
“When I see ‘for and by the people,’ I think it should be all of the people,” Fahey said.
Daunt then spoke to explain the Michigan Freedom Fund objections to Proposal 2, and to address some of Fahey’s points. He established that the fund is a conservative organization, stating that it was “in his blood” to distrust government.
He levied three chief complaints against the proposal citing its cost, accountability and complexity. Daunt pointed out that while the proposal establishes minimum salaries and funding for the committee, it makes no mention of a maximum.
“It is, and could be, a blank check,” Daunt said.
Daunt argued that the proposal would create an even bigger risk for corruption.
“They (committee members) are not accountable to the voters, to the people,” Daunt said. He also called into question the proposed amendments length, citing that it was nearly as long as two-thirds of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“This is a dangerous experiment with our constitution,” he said. “Within those 3,200 words, there could be unintended consequences,” Daunt said.
Daunt concluded by taking issue with language in the proposal that would prohibit family members of politicians and those closely involved with the internal workings of political organizations from serving on the committee. He called the a language a discriminatory first amendment violation, and expressed concern that his daughter would be disqualified merely because of her parentage.
After the panel, Daunt clarified that he was speaking in favor of first-past-the-post voting and against moves to increase proportionality in representation.
Fahey addressed concerns about excluding family members by clarifying that family members would still be able to have input as all meetings would be open to the public.
When asked about finances, Fahey stated that her group was not funded by any special interest groups, and that their finances can be found on the Secretary of State website. Daunt stated that the Freedom Fund, being a non-profit, is not legally obligated to disclose donors and as a policy does not do so.
After the panel, both speakers were approached for interview. When asked about his position on financial disclosure, stated that people make “something of a boogeyman” out of the Koch Brothers. He believes that disclosing finances may discourage people located in areas with a different political culture than their own from donating and being politically active. He also accused Voters Not Politicians of being a “Democratic front group.”
Fahey spoke on her desire to “pay it forward”. If the proposal passes, she hopes to give the information and logistics that Voters Not Politicians has accumulated to similar organizations operating both in other states and at the Federal level. “There isn’t really a guide out there,” she said, “and people should be able to elect the people they want to elect.”
Proposal 2 will be on the ballot during the midterm election on Nov. 6. Current polls place about 55 percent of voters in favor of the proposal, with about 22 percent undecided.