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How Did Citizen-Led Redistricting Initiatives Fare in the Mid-Terms?

The answer: very well.
A woman walks into a polling center to vote in the mid-term elections as the morning sun rises over the Utah Wasatch Mountains on November 6th, 2018, in Provo, Utah.

A woman walks into a polling center to vote in the mid-term elections as the morning sun rises over the Utah Wasatch Mountains on November 6th, 2018, in Provo, Utah.

In most states, legislatures redraw the voting districts after every census—often to their own advantage, in a process known as partisan gerrymandering. Opponents argue that this type of redistricting deprives voters of their rights—and, in previous election years, it may also have deprived the Democrats of a few key victories. (A 2017 Brennan Center for Justice report found that up to 17 Republicans in Congress owed their seats to "extreme partisan bias" in district maps.)

In a bid to take this responsibility away from parties in power, four states put redistricting on the ballot. Each citizen-led ballot initiative would create some form of commission or place restrictions on the redistricting process, which could affect the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census.

Here's how these measures did at the ballot.

Michigan: Passed

Michigan overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that will create an independent citizen redistricting commission to redraw both the legislative and congressional districts. The non-partisan grassroots organization Voters Not Politicians gathered 425,000 signatures to bring Proposal 2 to the ballot in an attempt to reverse partisan gerrymandering in Michigan, which has allowed Republicans to push a far-right legislative agenda in all three branches of government. Under the proposal, a bipartisan, 13-member commission—made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five Independents—must vote with a majority to approve the state's redistricting plans. The new boundaries will then be subject to public comment. "It's a game-changer in so many ways," Voters Not Politicians Board President Nancy Wang told the Detroit Free-Press on Tuesday.

Colorado: Passed

In Colorado, voters passed two measures, putting separate independent commissions in charge of state and congressional redistricting. Under Amendment Y, a 12-member bipartisan commission will take the role of redistricting from the General Assembly—and out from the governor's veto. The amendment will also require new boundaries to be "competitive," meaning that the newly drawn districts must have "a reasonable potential for the party affiliation of the district's representative to change at least once" every census, the amendment says. In a similar vote, Amendment Z will create a commission to redraw the state legislative maps.

Utah: Expected to Pass

By Tuesday night, 51 percent of tallied Utahn votes were in favor of citizen-led redistricting, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Unless mail-in ballots shift the vote, this will green-light an independent commission to help draft new congressional and state legislative maps. However, the governor and politicians would still appoint the commission's seven members. Proposition 4 will also require the commission to use "the best available data and scientific and statistical methods," effectively prohibiting partisan data, according to the Brennan Center. The bipartisan group Utahns for Responsive Government headed the fight for Proposition 4.

Missouri: Passed

Missouri's Amendment 1 passed with "landslide approval," according to KMOV. Unlike the other redistricting measures on the ballot this year, the state's new amendment will appoint a "non-partisan state demographer" to draw state legislative districts, subject to the legislative commission's approval. It will also require Missouri to use a statistical test to ensure fairness, making it one of the first states in the country to do so, according to the Brennan Center. Other aspects of the amendment are aimed at reducing the influence of lobbying in elections.

Here's a look at how redistricting works across the country.