By Susan Horvat and Edward Bobinchak

For too long in Michigan, our politicians have picked their voters, instead of voters picking their politicians, because politicians and lobbyists draw voting maps that keep them in power so they win and we, the people, lose.

Proposal 2, placed the November 6 ballot after thousands of our fellow citizens volunteered to collect 425,000 signatures, will change all that.

Brought forth by Voters Not Politicians, Proposal 2 is about reforming our state’s redistricting process. Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, states must redraw district lines based on population changes for U.S. Congress, the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

Today, politicians and lobbyists draw the lines. That’s right. The legislators draw the districts they will run in – a process that President Ronald Reagan called “a great conflict of interest.”

They draw the lines in secret, without letting voters know what is going on. And the group of lawmakers in power draw the districts to benefit them, making sure they will get re-elected and to benefit their political party. When the  Democrats are in charge, they draw districts to minimize the number of Republicans that will be elected. When Republicans are in charge, they draw districts to maximize their own power.

Who is left out of this process? The voters.

In 2011, the party in charge that year took contributions from special interests and then paid lawyers and consultants $1 million to draw lines in secret to make sure they would maintain control. They didn’t share the maps with the public before quickly voting on them. And then they refused to explain to the public how they made their decisions.

The system is corrupt. It’s rigged to favor politicians and special interests. And it’s undermining democracy in our state.

After the divisive 2016 election, a group of concerned citizens from around the state got together to figure out a better way that put voters in charge of how they are represented. They held meetings around the state, 33 Town Halls in 33 days to hear from their fellow voters. From the Upper Peninsula to Monroe, they listened and took feedback from national redistricting experts

After carefully crafting a policy that was uniquely fit for Michigan, more than 5,000 volunteers collected over 425,000 signatures representing each of our 83 counties.

Special interests tried to keep the proposal off the ballot. But the Michigan Supreme Court heard our case and rejected arguments from the special interests with an inherent interest in keeping our rigged system. Now we can vote on this reform, Proposal 2, on the November 6 ballot.

Proposal 2 sets up a system that is fair, impartial, and transparent.

It replaces politicians with citizens. A group of four Republicans, four Democrats and five voters who do not identify with either party will serve on an independent commission of citizens. Politicians or lobbyists, or their close relatives, cannot serve on the commission to end the conflicts of interests. (Although everyone is welcome to participate in the process.)

It requires the commission to hold ten open public meetings before they start drawing maps, to ensure the public is heard. Maps must follow federal laws, including the Voting Rights Act. Commissioners are required to try to avoid breaking county or city or township lines, but they cannot draw maps that favor any political candidate or party.

To ensure all sides a heard, maps must be approved by at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two of the independents. This will require conversations and compromise – the kind of process that helps lead to progress and solutions, which is missing too often in our government today.

And after the maps are proposed, there must be at least five public hearings.

Too often today, the people of Michigan, like our neighbors in the Roscommon community are left out of the process. The current system is done in secret and encourages conflicts of interest that benefit politicians, lobbyists, and special interests.

You can make your choice November 6 or by absentee. Proposal 2 will be at the bottom of your ballot in the nonpartisan section. Make sure you vote for Voters, Not Politicians by voting YES on Proposal 2.

Learn more at www.votersnotpoliticians.com.