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Voters Not Politicians: Making Votes Count

By Melissa Anders  

On the heels of two new constitutional amendments to change the election process in Michigan, Voters Not Politicians says it’s working to bring more fairness to the voters.    

The nonprofit group strives to strengthen democracy through fair elections, access, and accountability in government. It brought forth Proposal 2 in 2018, the successful ballot initiative to combat gerrymandering and change the way political districts are drawn in Michigan. It’s now working to make sure people are aware of and understand the new redistricting process, which gives a 13-member citizen commission the power to draw election district boundaries instead of state lawmakers.   

“For it to work, we need people – regular voters – to apply to serve,” says Executive Director Nancy Wang. “For the commission to be its most successful, we need it to be diverse and look like Michigan so that what we get is fair district lines, which again, goes a long way towards fair elections.”   

Spreading awareness is a “tougher job than you’d think,” Wang says. “There are a lot of interests who are seeking to undo a lot of the process that Michigan voters wanted to see.”   

There are two federal lawsuits against the amendment brought by the Michigan Republican Party and Michigan Freedom Fund. The Republican-controlled state legislature has denied some of the funding requested to administer the new commission, placing more burden on private groups to raise money and get the word out to voters about the new process, Wang says.    

Wang is excited about Proposal 3, another 2018 constitutional amendment that expanded voting rights to include straight-ticket voting, same-day voter registration, and no-reason absentee voting, among other changes.    

Looking ahead, Voters Not Politicians is working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan on a campaign to convince local clerks to stay open on nights and weekends leading up to elections so that more people can register to vote or submit absentee ballots.   

The group hasn’t taken an official stance on other voting process ideas, such as ranked choice voting, approval voting, or open primary systems. These sorts of topics have come up during town halls the group has held, and organizers want to study these ideas further.   

Wang has also heard people discussing vote by mail options, and she noted there are some high-profile examples of where it’s worked well. Given cybersecurity concerns, the snail mail option is something the group is interested in researching, she says.    

“In general, we’re in favor of anything that removes barriers that are preventing people’s choices and people’s voices from being heard and being acted upon in our state and our federal government.” • 

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit native and freelance writer.