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Michigan Became a National Leader on Democracy Reform

Voters in the state approved measures to end gerrymandering and dramatically increase access to the ballot.

  • Zachary Roth
November 7, 2018

Michigan’s democracy took a major step forward Tuesday as voters approved ballot measures to thwart gerrymandering and make it much easier to vote. 

Together, the wins transform the state into a leader and national model on democracy reform, after it previously had had some of the worst voting rules in the country. And they offer further evidence that there’s a huge appetite among voters to make our system fairer.

By an overwhelming margin, voters approved a ballot initiative to create an independent commission to handle redistricting, the result of an inspiring grassroots movement. The measure, which the Brennan Center helped draft, would establish a 13 member redistricting commission composed of four members of each party plus five independents, and would create guidelines to ensure fair maps. Michigan’s gerrymander this cycle was one of the most extreme, consistently giving the GOP many more seats in Congress and the state legislature than its vote share deserved. The next redistricting process in the state is now all but guaranteed to be significantly fairer.

Separately, voters also backed an initiative that establishes automatic voter registration (AVR), same-day voter registration and no excuse absentee voting, transforming access to the ballot in the state, especially for marginalized groups who are currently less likely to be registered. The AVR piece of the measure automatically registers eligible citizens to vote when they receive or update their driver’s license or state identification, unless they opt out. Michigan, as well as Nevada which also approved AVR last night, join the growing list of states that have adopted the reform since 2015.

The victories matter beyond the Wolverine state. Along with other democracy wins in Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and Utah, they underscore that Americans understand the urgent need to make our elections systems fairer and better reflect the will of voters. That’s a message that should resonate with the new Congress, too.

Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty