“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
– XIV Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1
The United States Constitution is a unique document, written shortly after the American Revolution, to protect the rights that so many Americans fought and died to secure. Not only does it provide the framework under which our Federal government operates, it also delineates rights held by the government, the states, and the people of those states.
Much of the attention on the 14th Amendment focuses on citizenship, but the rest of Section 1 – which guarantees that no American shall be denied equal protection under the law – is critical to an issue facing the state of Michigan. The “Equal Protection Clause” states that our government must treat each individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances. This means that the state must govern impartially – and cannot draw distinctions between individuals “solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.”
Unfortunately, that is precisely what Proposal 2 of 2018 does: It draws distinctions between individuals based on who they are related to, by banning the parents, step-parents, spouse, children and step-children of a wide range of individuals from serving on the Michigan Citizens Redistricting Commission.
While proponents of the ballot proposal claimed they were banning “politicians” from engaging in the process, the way the proposal was written unfairly bans these relatives as well – for no reason other than their family relations. The ballot proposal passed, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has confirmed that even precinct delegates and their family members are now banned from serving on the commission. More than a half million Michiganders – more than 5 percent of the population – are affected.
Equality under the law is fundamental to our rights as American citizens, going back to the Declaration of Independence, which begins, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.” Proposal 2 and the Michigan Citizens Redistricting Commission as it exists today is in violation of that spirit, and the Constitutional rights of every Michigan citizen.