In 2018 Michiganders voted to implement a citizen-led redistricting commission to draw the state’s political map, usurping politicians’ power in the process. The measure seeks to combat gerrymandering by making the process more impartial and less political. The commission will be bipartisan, comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents. Michigan will not be the first state to employ such a program, as California created a similar commission in 2011.
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Cynthia Dai is an outgoing member of California’s independent redistricting commission and the CEO and Principal at Dainamic Consulting, Inc. Dai says that Californians voted for the commission’s conception in 2008 after years of frustrating political gridlock and incumbents’ stranglehold on elected office. California citizens were invited to apply for the commission, just as Michigan residents are being asked currently, with the stipulation that any person with an explicit conflict of interest would not be considered. Michigan has the same provision. This means no lobbyists, relation to lobbyists, elected or former elected officials can be on the commission, says Dai.
The commission’s ethos is transparency. Dai says all discussions of re-districting were conducted in the light of day through public hearings, allowing the community to keep the commission honest. Despite this emphasis on transparency, the process was not without its detractors. To that, Dai says the commission tried their best to draw maps that were responsive to demographic shifts and created bodies of aligned interests that gave a voice to pertinent issues. Dai stands by the results, citing the end of gridlock and the passing of bipartisan law as evidence of the commission’s success. “The logjam is broken. People are happy…What’s good for the people is good for government and it’s also good for business,” says Dai.