LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A national Democratic redistricting group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday announced a $250,000 donation to bolster a Michigan ballot proposal that would empower a commission to draw congressional and legislative maps instead of the Legislature.
The money will aid Voters Not Politicians, whose organizers successfully qualified the anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment for the November ballot. Michigan is a top target for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose 501c4 affiliate contributed the donation.
"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," Holder, who served as attorney general during Barack Obama's presidency, said in a statement. "Our governments are not supposed to work this way. This partisan gerrymandering leads to dysfunction, polarization, and the legitimate belief held by average Americans that, for them, our political system just does not work. Regardless of party affiliation, that's not good for our democracy."
The donation drew criticism from the Michigan Republican Party, which opposes the initiative. A state GOP spokeswoman, Sarah Anderson, said the donation shows that Voters Not Politicians is a Democratic "front group who wants to change the rules because they can't win based on their ideas. VNP is a scam perpetrated by Democrats who are hoping to hoodwink Michigan voters into giving up their voice in the redistricting process."
The measure would strip the Legislature and governor — both currently GOP-held — of their once-a-decade redistricting duties and instead entrust them to a 13-member citizens' commission that would be prohibited from producing maps that give a disproportionate advantage to any political party.
An Associated Press statistical analysis of the 2016 election results found that Michigan's state House districts had one of the largest Republican tilts in the nation. The AP used an "efficiency gap" analysis to measure potential gerrymandering, the same statistical tool later cited in a lawsuit that alleges Michigan's legislative districts are unconstitutional.
The $250,000 contribution will boost the effort by Voters Not Politicians, which began as a grassroots group, to educate voters. A poll published this week by the Detroit News and WDIV-TV showed that 38 percent of likely voters were supportive of the proposal, 31 percent were opposed and 31 percent were undecided. The Glengariff Group survey was done Sept. 5-7 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The ballot committee had $616,000 on hand as of mid-July.
Voters Not Politicians Executive Director Katie Fahey said in a statement Wednesday that the campaign has gained support from across the political spectrum, including from Republicans who "agree that a transparent, citizen-driven, nonpartisan solution is needed to end the manipulation of voting maps for political gain."
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