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Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State

Supreme Court of Michigan

July 31, 2018

CITIZENS PROTECTING MICHIGAN'S CONSTITUTION, JOSEPH SPYKE, and JEANNE DAUNT, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
SECRETARY OF STATE and BOARD OF STATE CANVASSERS, Defendants/Cross-Defendants-Appellees, and VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS BALLOT COMMITTEE, d/b/a VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS; COUNT MI VOTE, d/b/a VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS; KATHRYN A. FAHEY; WILLIAM R. BOBIER; and DAVIA C. DOWNEY, Intervening Defendants/Cross-Plaintiffs-Appellees.

          Argued July 18, 2018

          Chief Justice: Stephen J. Markman Justices: Brian K. Zahra Bridget M. McCormack David F. Viviano Richard H. Bernstein Kurtis T. Wilder Elizabeth T. Clement

         Syllabus

         Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution (CPMC), Joseph Spyke, and Jeanne Daunt sought a writ of mandamus in the Court of Appeals ordering that defendants, the Secretary of State and the Board of State Canvassers (the Board), reject an initiative petition filed by intervening defendant Voters Not Politicians (VNP) to place on the November 2018 general election ballot a proposed amendment of Article 4, § 6 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution that would create an independent citizens commission to oversee legislative redistricting. Article 4, § 6 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution established a commission to regulate legislative redistricting, but the Supreme Court subsequently declared that provision was not severable from apportionment standards that were unconstitutional; accordingly, in more recent years, the Legislature has overseen redistricting. VNP's proposal sought to bring the commission in line with constitutional requirements and revive its authority to set redistricting plans for the state house, state senate, and federal congressional districts. VNP gathered sufficient signatures for the petition to be placed on the ballot, but before the Board could certify the petition, plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State and the Board to reject the VNP proposal, arguing that the proposal was not an "amendment" of the Constitution that could be proposed by petition under Article 12, § 2 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution but rather was a "general revision" of the Constitution that could only be enacted through a constitutional convention under Article 12, § 3. VNP and other parties moved to intervene as defendants and to file a cross-complaint seeking a writ of mandamus to require that the proposal be placed on the ballot. The Court of Appeals, Cavanagh, P.J., and K. F. Kelly and Fort Hood, JJ., rejected plaintiffs' requested relief and granted the relief sought by intervening defendants, ordering the Secretary of State and the Board to take all necessary measures to place the proposal on the ballot. __Mich App__ (2018) (Docket No. 343517). The Court of Appeals held that the proposal was an amendment rather than a revision because no fundamental government operations would be altered: the proposal would continue the redistricting commission, with modifications, already in the Constitution; the proposal involved a single, narrow focus-the independent citizens redistricting commission; and the Supreme Court would retain control over challenges to redistricting plans. CPMC sought leave to appeal in the Supreme Court and requested a stay of proceedings so that the Board would not certify the proposal while the case remained pending. The Supreme Court denied the motion for a stay but granted leave to appeal to consider whether the proposal was eligible for placement on the ballot as a voter-initiated constitutional amendment under Article 12, § 2, or whether it was a general revision of the Constitution and therefore ineligible for placement on the ballot. __Mich __(2018).

         In an opinion by Justice Viviano, joined by Justices McCormack, Bernstein, and Clement, the Supreme Court held:

         A voter-initiated amendment under Const 1963, art 12, § 2 is permissible if it proposes changes that do not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of the government in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution. Because VNP's proposal would leave the form and structure of the government essentially as it was envisioned in the 1963 Constitution, it was not equivalent to a new constitution and was therefore a permissible amendment under Article 12, § 2. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was affirmed.

         1. Const 1963, art 1, § 1 provides that all political power is inherent in the people. The people have chosen to retain for themselves, in Const 1963, art 12, § 2, the power to initiate by petition proposed constitutional amendments that, if various requirements are met, will be placed on the ballot and voted on at an election. Specifically, Const 1963, art 12, § 2 requires every petition to include the full text of the proposed amendment and to be signed by registered electors of the state equal in number to at least 10% of the total votes cast for Governor in the most recent general gubernatorial election. Once the person authorized by law to receive the petition determines that the petition signatures were valid and sufficient, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot. The Constitution also provides, in Const 1963, art 12, § 3, that the question of a general revision of the Constitution shall be submitted to the electors of the state every 16 years and at such times as may be provided by law.

         2. In construing a constitutional provision, the objective is to determine the original meaning of the text to the people at the time of ratification using the rule of common understanding. To help discover the common understanding, constitutional convention debates and the Address to the People, though not controlling, are relevant. The pertinent definitions of "amendment" in dictionaries from the time Article 12, § 2 and its predecessor article in the 1908 Constitution were ratified did not directly address the breadth of the change that could be made by amendment or provide any substantive limitations on amendments.

         3. The Michigan case law construing the meaning of the term "amendment" in Article 12, § 2 was not controlling. In Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State, 280 Mich.App. 273 (2008), aff'd in result only 482 Mich. 960 (2008), the Court of Appeals held that, in order to determine whether a proposal effects a "general revision" of the Constitution rather than an amendment of it, the Court must consider both the quantitative nature and the qualitative nature of the proposed changes, specifically taking into account not only the number of proposed changes or whether a wholly new constitution is being offered but also the scope of the proposed changes and the degree to which those changes would interfere with or modify the operation of government. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relied, in part, on Kelly v. Laing, 259 Mich. 212 (1932), and Sch Dist of City of Pontiac v. City of Pontiac, 262 Mich. 338 (1933), and also on cases from other jurisdictions. However, Laing was clearly distinguishable because, while it addressed the distinction between a "revision" and an "amendment," it did so in the context of a city charter under the Home Rule City Act, MCL 117.1 et seq., and that discussion was unnecessary to resolving the case, and Pontiac Sch Dist summarily rejected the argument that a proposed amendment amounted to a revision without any discussion of the text of the governing constitutional provision or citation of any authority. Notably, the distinction between an amendment and a revision was contained only in the parties' arguments to the Court; speaking for itself, the Pontiac Court did not actually embrace a dichotomy between amendments and revisions but simply concluded that the proposal was not so dramatic a change as to "render it other than an amendment." At most, Pontiac suggested that there might be undefined limitations on what could be achieved by an amendment. In Citizens, the Michigan Supreme Court had an opportunity to resolve the case under the amendment/revision dichotomy but declined to do so, affirming the result only and fracturing on the reasoning. The Court of Appeals again addressed this issue in Protect Our Jobs v. Bd of State Canvassers, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued August 27, 2012 (Docket No. 311828), which involved a CPMC challenge to a proposal on the same grounds it asserted in Citizens and in this case: that the proposal was a general revision of the Constitution under Article 12, § 3. The Court of Appeals rejected CPMC's challenge, using the "qualitative and quantitative" standard from Citizens and concluding that although the proposal might affect various provisions and statutes, it was limited to a single subject matter and changed only two sections of the Constitution, whereas the proposal in Citizens sought to replace vast portions of the Constitution and massively modify the structure and operation of Michigan's government. However, on appeal, the Supreme Court did not order briefing on the issue and did not address it.

         4. The predecessor of Const 1963, art 12, § 2, which was ratified as Const 1908, art 17, § 2, initially gave the Legislature a veto over voter-initiated amendments before the election at which the proposal would appear on the ballot and allowed the Legislature to submit alternative or substitute amendments. However, the legislative veto was deleted by amendment in 1913. That change, which removed the clearest and most significant substantive check on the petition power, counseled against finding atextual limitations on voter-initiated amendments when construing Const 1963, art 12, § 2. The critical limitation in Const 1963, art 12, § 2, considering the amount of discussion it prompted at the 1961-1962 convention, was instead the procedural requirement of obtaining a certain number of signatures. A proposal at the convention that would have made it progressively easier to obtain enough signatures as the population increased was struck after a delegate argued that the voter-initiated amendments should not be too easy to accomplish because amendments, unlike statutory matter, should be important enough to merit inclusion in a constitution. Thus, the convention decided to keep voter-initiated amendments difficult because amendments, like the Constitution itself, were intended to deal with serious matters. Accordingly, the convention imposed what it viewed as the clearest and most stringent limitation on initiative amendments: a signature requirement.

         5. The relevant substantive limitation on the scope of voter-initiated amendments arises from the text of Article 12, § 2 when read together with Article 12, § 3. By adopting these two different procedures for altering the Constitution, the framers intended that the mechanisms be different in some regard. The result of a constitutional convention called to consider a "general revision" under Article 12, § 3 is a proposed constitution or amendments adopted by the convention and proposed to the electors. By contrast, if approved, a voter-initiated amendment under Article 12, § 2 becomes part of the Constitution and abrogates or amends existing provisions of the Constitution. Consequently, an amendment does not replace a constitution in full, but simply adds to or abrogates specific provisions in an existing constitution. The fact that only the convention has the power to propose a constitution implies that an initiative amendment cannot do so, and because this limitation would be meaningless if it only required a new constitution to be labeled as an amendment, it follows that an initiative amendment cannot propose changes that are tantamount to a new constitution. The phrase "general revision" supports this dichotomy between amendments and new constitutions. "General" means "dealing with all or the overall, universal aspects of the subject under consideration," and "revision" is relevantly defined as "the act or work of revising," which is how the term was characterized in Laing and how it was described at the 1908 constitutional convention. The "revision" is simply the process for reconsidering the Constitution as a whole; it is not, as some Court of Appeals opinions suggest, a particular document or proposed change. Accordingly, the distinction between the Article 12, § 3 convention process and the Article 12, § 2 amendment process was that the former could produce a proposed constitution, while the latter was limited to proposing less sweeping changes.

         6. In determining whether a voter-initiated amendment is equivalent to a new constitution, the number of changes is not dispositive, as even a limited number of changes can have the effect of creating a new constitution. The most basic functions of a constitution are to create the form and structure of government, define and limit the powers of government, and provide for the protection of rights and liberties. These are the basic threads of a constitution, and when they are removed, replaced, or radically rewoven, the whole tapestry of the constitution may change. Therefore, changes that significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government, in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution, are not amendments under Article 12, § 2. Contrary to the suggestion in Pontiac Sch Dist, it is not necessarily the impact on the operations of government that matters. Further, a change that recalibrates the relative power of the branches of government-such as limiting or taking away a specific power from one branch-is not, absent a significant effect on the structure of government, a change tantamount to a new constitution.

         7. To determine whether VNP was proposing changes that would significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government in a way that is tantamount to creating a new constitution, it was necessary to examine Michigan law on redistricting and apportionment. Michigan's first three Constitutions gave the Legislature authority to redistrict. Because the Legislature did not always carry out this responsibility, two competing voter-initiated amendments were placed on the November 1952 ballot. One was approved, which wrote directly into the Constitution the then-existing alignment of seats in the Senate provided for in the 1952 amendment, added 10 seats to the House, and conferred upon the Board the obligation to draw new house districts if the Legislature failed to act. When the 1963 Constitution was ratified, it laid out a different framework for reapportionment and redistricting, under which the members of the Legislature were to be elected according to the districts in which they resided. The Constitution set forth apportionment factors and rules for individual districts, which were to be redrawn after each federal census in accordance with formulas that considered land area and population. The 1963 Constitution created a bipartisan commission on legislative apportionment to draw the relevant district lines, with the Secretary of State being required to furnish all necessary technical services and the Legislature being required to appropriate funds to enable the commission to carry out its activities. If the commission could not agree on a plan, commissioners could submit plans to the Supreme Court, which was required to determine which plan complied most accurately with the constitutional requirements and direct that the plan be adopted. Soon after the 1963 Constitution was ratified, the United States Supreme Court held in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), that the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis and that geographical considerations could no longer play a role in apportionment if they produced population deviations between the districts, and it invalidated Michigan's apportionment rules shortly thereafter. As a result, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the commission to adopt a new plan for redistricting and apportionment that complied with Reynolds. After several instances in which the commission failed to reach an agreement and required the Michigan Supreme Court's intervention, the Supreme Court ultimately held in 1982 that the commission was not severable from the provisions that had been declared unconstitutional, stating that changing how legislators are chosen was a decision of enormous importance that the people should make and suggesting that the people could do so by initiating a constitutional amendment. Because the initiative process was time-consuming and a plan was needed in the meantime, the Supreme Court appointed an individual to oversee the drawing of a redistricting and apportionment plan, but it stressed that this plan was merely a stopgap until the people or their representatives in the other two branches of government acted. It was not until 1996 that the Legislature codified apportionment standards and committed itself to drawing districts in the future. Thus, the last time the voters had direct input on this issue, they opted for apportionment and redistricting to be conducted by a commission, and the Legislature now exercises a power that the Constitution of 1963 expressly denied to it-to draw legislative districts-because the Constitution has never been amended to modify the unconstitutional provisions concerning apportionment and redistricting.

         8. VNP's proposal would not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of government in a manner that is tantamount to creating a new constitution. The VNP amendment would eliminate unconstitutional provisions that have remained in the Constitution and replace them with standards that reflect many of the same principles that took the place of those provisions, including adhering to federal law, requiring contiguous districts, respecting municipal boundaries, and seeking reasonable compactness. While the proposal also contained new items, such as considerations of partisan fairness, VNP's proposed standards would constitute neither a revolution in redistricting nor a transformation of Michigan's form or structure of government. Although the VNP proposal would affect the powers of all three branches of government by adding limiting language to the vesting clauses of each branch, these limitations were the result of VNP's attempt to harmonize its changes with the rest of the Constitution, and they would only place the proposal in jeopardy if the changes were equivalent to the creation of a new constitution. The present Constitution does not accord the Legislature any role in the redistricting or apportionment process; instead, as in VNP's proposal, a commission is placed in charge, and the commissions are materially similar. VNP's proposal seeks to ensure that the membership strikes a partisan balance and gives the Legislature a formal role in this process, while it had no such role in the 1963 Constitution's commission, but this slightly increased level of participation by the Legislature would not come at the expense of either of the other two branches of government. Although the Legislature has established the standards and framework for redistricting and drafted the plans since 1996, that role was a deviation from what the voters chose when they ratified the 1963 Constitution and was solely due to a judicial remedy that was crafted when the unconstitutional apportionment standards the commission was directed to implement were held not to be severable from the commission itself. The executive branch would not be significantly affected by the proposal, which only slightly expands the Secretary of State's responsibilities. Any additional powers the executive currently has in relation to redistricting flow not from the Constitution but from that same judicial remedy. VNP's proposal would only modestly change the judicial branch's role in the redistricting process. The conclusion that VNP's proposal leaves the form and structure of the government essentially as it was envisioned in the 1963 Constitution is consistent with the expectations of key members of the 1961-1962 constitutional convention, the Michigan Supreme Court's suggestion in 1982 that Michigan's apportionment system could be addressed through an amendment to the Constitution initiated by the people, and the history of amendments to Michigan's Constitution, one of which expressly stripped the Legislature of the power to redistrict in certain circumstances and gave it to an agency in the executive branch. Further, other states have created independent redistricting commissions through voter-initiated amendments, and proposals to create such commissions have appeared on ballots through the initiative process numerous times in multiple states. Similarly, citizens in several states have employed initiatives to accomplish redistricting. Also persuasive was Bess v. Ulmer, 985 P.2d 979 (Alas, 1999), in which the Alaska Supreme Court held that a proposed amendment before the voters that would remove the reapportionment power from the executive branch, where the state's constitution had placed it, and transfer it to a "neutral body" was an amendment rather than a revision. The framers of Michigan's 1963 Constitution did not assign the apportionment power to any elected body, and so the effect of the changes here would be even less significant than those in Bess. Thus, the conclusion that VNP's proposal was a permissible voter-initiated amendment reflected the constitutional text, Michigan's historical experience, logic, and the wisdom of other states.

         9. VNP's proposal did not amount to an abrogation under Const 1963, art 12, § 2 by requiring commission members to take an oath that is prohibited under the Oath Clause, Const 1963, art 11, § 1. In Tedrow v. McNary, 270 Mich. 332 (1935), this Court upheld a requirement that candidates for a certain public office file an affidavit or other evidence of their educational qualifications. Because the VNP proposal simply required candidates to attest to their qualifications for a position on the commission-a requirement Tedrow allowed-the proposal did not abrogate the Oath Clause by rendering it wholly inoperative.

         Affirmed.

         Chief Justice Markman, joined by Justices Zahra and Wilder, dissenting, would have held that the VNP proposal constituted a general revision of the Constitution and thus was eligible for placement on the ballot only by the convention process of Const 1963, art 12, § 3. The people have made it reasonably clear that while ultimately they do possess the authority to restructure their own charter of government, as to the most fundamentally redefining of these changes, this restructuring will be done only after reflective and deliberative processes of decision-making. And Chief Justice Markman was persuaded that the people would find fundamentally redefining a restructuring of their Constitution that deprived them and their chosen representatives of any role in the foundational process of our system of self-government: the process by which election districts are established, citizens are joined together or separated by political boundaries, and the building blocks of our governing institutions are determined. Inserted in its place by the VNP proposal would be the governance of 13 randomly selected people entirely lacking in any democratic or electoral relationship with the other 10 million people of this state or their elected representatives. In the end, the people must be allowed to do as they see fit; they can diminish the realm of governance of their representatives (and substitute in its place an "independent" and unaccountable commission) and they can dilute the relationship between themselves and their representatives, but the people, as they have spoken through their Constitution, have also insisted that, before a change of this magnitude takes place, a serious and considered public conversation must first take place, affording opportunities for sustained and focused debate, give-and-take, compromise, and modification. Furthermore, references to the fact that the commission is to be "independent" obscure the fundamental change that the proposed measure would make to the people's Constitution; the great value of our Constitution is not the "independence" of public bodies but rather the separation of powers and the checks and balances that define relationships between public bodies and thereby limit and constrain their authority. While the VNP commission would indeed be "independent," most conspicuously, it would be "independent" of the people's representatives in the Legislature, independent of the people, and independent of the processes of self-government, especially the processes by which the people, in whose name both VNP and the majority purport to speak, exert their impact upon the "foundational" process of redistricting. Our constitutional heritage is poorly described by advocates of this proposal as one predicated upon the "independence" of public bodies; it is far better described as predicated upon the exercise of public authority that is limited, separated, subject to appropriate checks and balances, and accountable to the citizenry. The proposed new commission is grounded upon none of these. Whatever its merits, the creation of this commission would effect "fundamental" change upon both our constitutional charter and the system of government operating under this charter. It thus clearly warrants the kind of careful deliberation best afforded by the processes of constitutional "revision" set forth in Article 12, § 3 of this state's Constitution. For at least the past 85 years in Michigan, governing law concerning direct constitutional change has recognized that alternative constitutional procedures exist for instituting direct constitutional change and that determining which of these procedures is to be used in a particular instance requires an assessment of the qualitative nature of the proposed change, i.e., whether the changes would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of our government. Chief Justice Markman disagreed with the majority's standard to the extent the majority held that a proposed change must be tantamount to creating a new constitution in order to be considered something other than an amendment. In this case, the VNP proposal would strike all that is currently in the Constitution regarding redistricting and would create an independent redistricting commission of a character effecting a fundamental change upon both the Constitution and the system of government operating under that Constitution. The Court of Appeals and the majority erred by assessing the nature of the change that would be effected by the VNP proposal by comparing the commission to be established by the VNP with the commission that had been created by the 1963 Constitution but thereafter was struck down. The pertinent question was not whether replacing the commission created by the 1963 Constitution with the VNP commission would fundamentally change the operation of government, but whether removing the power to redistrict from the Legislature and conferring that power onto the VNP commission would fundamentally change the operation of government because we are obligated to consider how the government is currently operating in order to make the necessary comparison, not how the government might once have operated, and it currently operates (as it has almost always operated in the history of our state) with the Legislature responsible for redistricting. The VNP proposal would affect the foundational power of government by removing altogether from the legislative branch authority over redistricting and consolidating that power instead in an independent commission made up of 13 randomly selected individuals who are not in any way chosen by the people, representative of the people, or accountable to the people, thereby effecting a fundamental alteration in the relationship between the people and their representatives. The proposal would also modify the prefatory language of Articles 4, 5, and 6 of the 1963 Constitution pertaining to the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, suggesting that the commission itself is an entirely novel institution that would fundamentally alter the Constitution's separation of powers. Chief Justice Markman therefore would have held that because the VNP proposal, if adopted, would fundamentally change the operation of the government, it was not an amendment that could be properly placed on the ballot by the initiative process of Const 1963, art 12, § 2. Rather, the decision of the Court of Appeals should have been reversed because the VNP proposal constituted a general revision that was only eligible for placement on the ballot through the convention process of Const 1963, art 12, § 3.

         Justice Wilder, joined by Justice Zahra, dissenting, concurred in full with Chief Justice MARKMAN's dissent but wrote separately to address an alternative basis for rejecting the VNP proposal. Article 12, § 2 of the 1963 Constitution and MCL 168.482(3) both require that ballot proposals that would amend Michigan's Constitution republish any existing constitutional provisions that the proposed amendment would alter or abrogate. Article 4, § 6(2)(A)(III) of the VNP proposal, which is distinct from the qualifications for office listed in Article 4, § 6(1) of the VNP proposal, would require that applicants to the independent citizens redistricting commission attest under oath either that they affiliate or do not affiliate with one of the two major political parties. An applicant's failure to attest under oath regarding his or her political party affiliation would render that applicant ineligible for a position on the commission under VNP proposal, art 4, § 6(2)(D)(I). Because this oath requirement in the VNP proposal would abrogate Article 11, § 1 of the 1963 Constitution, which forbids requiring additional oaths or affirmations as a qualification for public office, VNP was required to republish that provision on its petitions. Strict compliance with the republication requirement was required, and it was uncontested that VNP failed to republish Article 11, § 1. Therefore, an order of mandamus should have issued directing the rejection of the VNP proposal.

         BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

          OPINION

          Viviano, J.

         The question in this case is whether the voter-initiated amendment proposed by intervening defendant Voters Not Politicians (VNP) should be placed on the ballot. VNP launched a petition drive to propose an amendment that would reestablish a commission to oversee legislative restricting. Plaintiffs brought suit to stop the petition from being placed on the ballot, making the now familiar argument that the proposed amendment is actually a "general revision" that can only be enacted through a constitutional convention.

         We took this case to determine whether the VNP petition is a constitutionally permissible voter-initiated amendment under Const 1963, art 12, § 2. To answer this question, we must fulfill our Court's most solemn responsibility: to interpret and apply the pertinent provisions of our Constitution. After closely examining the text, structure, and history of the Constitution, we hold that, to be permissible, a voter-initiated amendment must propose changes that do not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of the government in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution. We reach this conclusion for the following reasons:

• The text of the relevant constitutional provisions, Const 1963, art 12, §§ 2 and 3, makes it clear that a constitutional convention is required to produce a new constitution. (See pages 20 through 31 of this opinion.)
• The primary substantive limitation in the text of the predecessor provision to Const 1963, art 12, § 2 originally imposed on voter-initiated amendments was removed more than 100 years ago. (See pages 20 through 22 of this opinion.)
• Our caselaw on this topic-undeveloped and largely not on point-fails to establish any controlling standard in this area. (See pages 12 through 19 of this opinion.)

         In this case, VNP's amendment does not propose changes creating the equivalent of a new constitution:

• VNP's proposed redisricting commission is materially similar to the commission provided for in our current Constitution, and VNP's proposed redisricting standards are similar to the ones presently used. (See pages 38 through 44 of this opinion.)
• VNP's proposal does not substantially change the powers of the three branches of government when compared to where the people placed those powers in the 1963 Constitution. (See pages 44 through 50 of this opinion.)
• Finally, treating VNP's proposal as an amendment accords with the stated expectations of key delegates to the 1961-1962 constitutional convention, statements from this Court on this very topic, and the treatment of this issue by other states. (See pages 50 through 55 of this opinion.)

         Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals that VNP's proposal is a permissible voter-initiated amendment.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         VNP is a ballot-question committee. It filed with defendant Secretary of State the initiative petition at issue in this case. The initiative proposal would, among other things, amend Const 1963, art 4, § 6, which established a commission to regulate legislative redisricting. The commission prescribed by our present Constitution is inactive because this Court declared that it could not be severed from apportionment standards contained in the Michigan Constitution that had been held to be unconstitutional, as explained further below.[1] After that ruling, this Court oversaw redisricting until the Legislature took control of the process. VNP's proposal would bring Michigan's constitutional redistricting standards in line with federal constitutional requirements and revive the redistricting commission's authority to set redistricting plans for the state house, state senate, and federal congressional districts.

         A sufficient number of registered electors signed the petition for it to be placed on the November 2018 general election ballot. Before the Board of State Canvassers could certify the petition for placement on the ballot, [2] plaintiff Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution (CPMC), along with other plaintiffs, [3] filed the present complaint for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State and the Board to reject the VNP proposal. CPMC argued that the proposal was not an amendment of the Constitution that could be proposed by petition under Const 1963, art 12, § 2; rather, the proposal amounted to a "general revision" of the Constitution and could be enacted only through a constitutional convention under Const 1963, art 12, § 3. The Court of Appeals granted the request by VNP and other parties[4] to intervene as defendants and to file a cross-complaint seeking a writ of mandamus requiring the proposal to be placed on the ballot.

         In a unanimous published opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs' requested relief and granted the relief sought by intervening defendants, ordering the Secretary of State and the Board "to take all necessary measures to place the proposal on the November 2018 general election ballot."[5] The Court noted that our courts have long distinguished between an "amendment" and a "revision."[6] The former was a narrower concept focusing on specific changes to the Constitution, while the latter was a more comprehensive modification of fundamental government operations.[7] To determine if a particular proposal changed the fundamental nature of the government, the Court of Appeals considered the quantitative and qualitative features of the proposal.[8]

         Comparing the present proposal to those addressed in past cases, the Court observed that the proposal would continue, with modifications, the redistricting commission already in the Constitution (although not enforced).[9] Also, the proposal "involve[d] a single, narrow focus-the independent citizen redistricting commission."[10]While the proposal reduced this Court's oversight of redistricting plans from the level contemplated by the present Constitution, our Court would nonetheless retain control over challenges to redistricting plans.[11] Regarding quantitative considerations, the Court of Appeals noted the number of words the proposal would add to the Constitution (4, 834) and the fact that 11 sections would be changed across 3 articles of the Constitution.[12]None of this, however, was enough to convince the Court that fundamental government operations would be altered. Thus, the proposal was an amendment that could be brought by petition, as it had been.

         CPMC sought leave to appeal here and requested a stay of proceedings below so that the Board would not certify the proposal while the case remained pending. We denied the motion for a stay, [13] but we granted leave to appeal to consider "whether the proposal at issue is eligible for placement on the November 2018 general election ballot as a voter-initiated constitutional amendment under Const 1963, art 12, § 2, or whether it is a revision to the Constitution and therefore is ineligible for placement on the ballot."[14]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A lower court's decision on whether to grant a writ of mandamus is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.[15] To the extent that a request for a writ of mandamus involves questions of law, we review them de novo.[16]

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION

         Our Constitution is clear that "[a]ll political power is inherent in the people."[17]The people have chosen to retain for themselves, in Const 1963, art 12, § 2, the power to initiate proposed constitutional amendments that, if various requirements are met, will be placed on the ballot and voted on at election time. It has been observed that "there is no more constitutionally significant event than when the wielders of '[a]ll political power' under that document, Const 1963, art 1, § 1, choose to exercise their extraordinary authority to directly approve or disapprove of an amendment thereto. Const 1963, art 12, §§ 1 and 2."[18] In this case, we must determine the scope of the voters' power to initiate amendments.

          In answering this question, we do not consider whether the proposed amendment at issue represents good or bad public policy.[19] Instead, we must determine whether the amendment meets all the relevant constitutional requirements.[20] There may be an "overarching right" to the initiative petition, "but only in accordance with the standards of the constitution; otherwise, there is an 'overarching right' to have public policy determined by a majority of the people's democratically elected representatives."[21] In particular, we have stated that the "right [of electors to propose amendments] is to be exercised in a certain way and according to certain conditions, the limitations upon its exercise, like the reservation of the right itself, being found in the Constitution."[22]

         Our inquiry here, then, is to determine the extent of the people's right to initiate constitutional amendments and whether any clear limitations may be found in the Constitution.[23] As with any constitutional provision, the objective of our interpretation" 'is to determine the text's original meaning to the ratifiers, the people, at the time of ratification.' "[24] The primary rule is that of" 'common understanding, '" as Justice Cooley explained long ago:

A constitution is made for the people and by the people. The interpretation that should be given it is that which reasonable minds, the great mass of the people themselves, would give it. "For as the Constitution does not derive its force from the convention which framed, but from the people who ratified it, the intent to be arrived at is that of the people, and it is not to be supposed that they have looked for any dark or abstruse meaning in the words employed, but rather that they have accepted them in the sense most obvious to the common understanding, and ratified the instrument in the belief that that was the sense designed to be conveyed."[25]

         To help discover the "common understanding," this Court has observed "that 'constitutional convention debates and the address to the people, though not controlling, are relevant.' "[26]

         B. OVERVIEW OF THE AMENDMENT AND REVISION PROCESS

         Three basic procedures allow for alterations of the Constitution. The first, not directly relevant here, provides for "amendments" proposed in the Senate or House and approved by two-thirds of the members in each chamber, then submitted to the voters for approval.[27] Const 1963, art 12, § 2 provides the second manner of altering the Constitution, which is the one VNP attempted here: "Amendments may be proposed to this constitution by petition of the registered electors of this state."[28] "Every petition shall include the full text of the proposed amendment, and be signed by registered electors of the state equal in number to at least 10 percent of the total vote cast" for Governor in the most recent general gubernatorial election.[29] Once the "person authorized by law to receive such petition" determines that the petition signatures were valid and sufficient, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot.[30] Finally, under Const 1963, art 12, § 3, the third manner of changing the Constitution is by constitutional convention.[31] Every 16 years, "and at such times as may be provided by law, the question of a general revision of the constitution shall be submitted to the electors of the state"; if the voters vote in favor of performing a "general revision," a constitutional convention is convened for that purpose.[32]

         We have explained that the adoption of the initiative power, along with other tools of direct democracy, "reflected the popular distrust of the Legislative branch of our state government."[33] While the right to propose amendments by initiative must be done according to constitutional requirements, we have observed that "it may be said, generally, that [the right] can be interfered with neither by the legislature, the courts, nor the officers charged with any duty in the premises."[34] Indeed, we have held that Article 12, § 2 is self-executing, [35] although the Constitution explicitly allows the Legislature to prescribe by law procedures regulating the initiative.[36]

         C. LIMTIATIONS ON VOTER-INITIATED AMENDMENTS

         The scope of the initiative amendment process and its relation to the "general revision" process is at the heart of this case. How extensive can a voter-initiated amendment be, and does the Constitution place any relevant subject matter limitations on such amendments?

         1. CASELAW

         We will begin with our caselaw on this topic, which ultimately proves unilluminating. There is no controlling authority from this Court construing the meaning of the term "amendment" in Article 12, § 2. The issue has been raised twice in the last 10 years, but neither case yielded a majority opinion from this Court construing the term "amendment" in this context. In Citizens, [37] the Court of Appeals addressed this issue for the first time. In that case, a group called Reform Michigan Government Now! (RMGN) submitted an initiative petition proposing a vast array of changes to Michigan's Constitution.[38] CPMC argued that "the RMGN initiative petition [was] not eligible to be placed on the ballot because it [was] not merely an 'amendment' to the constitution, but [was] a 'general revision' . . . that only a constitutional convention [could] accomplish."[39] The Court distinguished an "amendment" from a "general revision" and held:

[I]n order to determine whether a proposal effects a "general revision" of the constitution, and is therefore not subject to the initiative process established for amending the constitution, the Court must consider both the quantitative nature and the qualitative nature of the proposed changes. More specifically, the determination depends on not only the number of proposed changes or whether a wholly new constitution is being offered, but on the scope of the proposed changes and the degree to which those changes would interfere with, or modify, the operation of government.[40]

         In reaching this conclusion, the court reviewed: (1) the text of the constitutional provisions at issue;[41] (2) two cases from this Court-one interpreting a city charter under the Home Rule City Act, MCL 117.1 et seq., [42] and one interpreting the predecessor provisions of the 1908 Michigan Constitution;[43] and (3) several cases from other jurisdictions, including two leading cases decided by the California Supreme Court.[44] The Court "agree[d] with the reasoning of these decisions" and found them "to be consistent with Michigan law as stated in Laing and Pontiac School Dist."[45]

         Much of the Court of Appeals' analysis hinged on Laing and Pontiac Sch Dist, so it is worth considering whether those cases did, in fact, establish the above standard, and whether they are binding or persuasive authority. Despite the Court of Appeals' reliance on Laing and Pontiac Sch Dist, we find these cases to be of limited value on this topic. Laing is clearly distinguishable because, while it addressed the distinction between a "revision" and an "amendment," it did so in the context of a city charter under the Home Rule City Act.[46] And, in any event, its discussion was unnecessary to resolving the case, since it occurred immediately after the Court's holding that "[t]he petition on its face is not in the form required by law, and raised no duty in defendants to provide for an election."[47] We agree with the Solicitor General that this case is not binding; however, the Court's opinion does give some insight into the plain meaning of the terms "amendment" and "revision" 24 years after the 1908 Constitution was ratified:

"Revision" and "amendment" have the common characteristics of working changes in the charter and are sometimes used inexactly, but there is an essential difference between them. Revision implies a re-examination of the whole law and a redraft without obligation to maintain the form, scheme, or structure of the old. As applied to fundamental law, such as a constitution or charter, it suggests a convention to examine the whole subject and to prepare and submit a new instrument, whether the desired changes from the old be few or many. Amendment implies continuance of the general plan and purport of the law, with corrections to better accomplish its purpose. Basically, revision suggests fundamental change, while amendment is a correction of detail.[48]

         Nine months later, in Pontiac Sch Dist, this Court again addressed the distinction between an "amendment" and a "revision," this time in the context of a challenge to an amendment of the Constitution proposed under Article 17, § 2 of the 1908 Constitution, the predecessor to Article 12, § 2 of the 1963 Constitution.[49] Without any discussion of the text of the provision, or citation of any authority (notably absent was any citation of Laing, decided less than a year earlier), the Court summarily rejected the argument that the amendment amounted to a revision because it "does not so interfere with or modify the operation of governmental agencies as to render it other than an amendment by way of an addition to the Constitution."[50] It is hard to glean much meaning from this statement, since the Court did not purport to set forth a standard to govern this question but instead merely rejected the argument in the form that it was presented. Notably, the distinction between an amendment and a revision was contained only in the parties' arguments to the Court; speaking for itself, the Court did not actually embrace a dichotomy between "amendments" and "revisions" but simply concluded that the proposal was not so dramatic a change as to "render it other than an amendment . . . ."[51]In Citizens, this Court had an opportunity to resolve the case under the amendment/revision dichotomy but declined to do so, affirming the result only and fracturing on the reasoning. Three justices gave a qualified endorsement of the Court of Appeals' articulation of the distinction between an "amendment" and a "general revision" of the Constitution.[52] The remaining four justices declined to adopt the Court of Appeals' standard. Three of the four agreed with the order affirming, but did so based on grounds not addressed by the Court of Appeals, namely, that "a proposal of this extraordinary scope and multitude of unrelated provisions clearly cannot be reasonably communicated to the people in 'not more than 100 words, '" as required by Article 12, § 2.[53] By its willingness to dispose of the case on the alternative ground that "[t]his language establishes a clear limitation on the scope of the constitutional amendments under [Article 12, § 2], "[54] the statement by this grouping of justices may be read as an implicit recognition that the "amendment/general revision" dichotomy did not provide such a clear limitation, at least not under the Court of Appeals' standard.[55] Justice KELLY's dissent questioned the test developed by the Court of Appeals and lamented that our failure to construct a clearer test left the state of the law unsettled.[56]

         The Court of Appeals again confronted this issue in Protect Our Jobs v. Bd of State Canvassers.[57] As the Court summarized it, the ballot proposal at issue was narrow, providing in one constitutional section the "people with the right to organize and bargain collectively" with public and private employers, to the extent not preempted by federal law, and in another section "protecting the rights of classified civil service employees to bargain collectively concerning all conditions and aspects of employment except promotions."[58] CPMC challenged the proposal on the same grounds it asserted in Citizens and is asserting in this lawsuit, i.e., that it was a general revision of the Constitution under Article 12, § 3.

         The Court of Appeals rejected CPMC's challenge, using the "qualitative and quantitative" standard from its decision in Citizens and concluding that although the proposal might affect "various provisions and statutes," it was "limited to a single subject matter" and changed only two sections of the Constitution.[59] By contrast, the RMGN proposal in Citizens

sought to replace vast portions of the constitution and massively modify the structure and operation of Michigan's government. The initiative proposal here is far more akin to a correction of detail than a fundamental change, when viewed in the proper context of the constitution as a whole. See Laing v. Kelly, 259 Mich. 212, 217; 242 N.W. 891 (1932).[60]

         This Court did not order briefing on the issue[61] and our opinion declined to address it.[62]

         Thus, we could locate no controlling authority from this Court construing the meaning of the term "amendment" in Article 12, § 2. At most, Pontiac suggests there may be undefined limitations on what can be achieved by an amendment. Moreover, our caselaw lacks a detailed examination of this issue, especially one that conducts the proper analysis by examining the constitutional text. Perhaps as a result of veering from the text, the rather vague standard that has developed below affords courts considerable discretion in this area.[63] We believe the constitutional text provides a clearer standard, which we turn to now.

         2. ARTICLE 12, § 2

         The textual analysis begins with examining the meaning of "amendment" as used in the text.[64] "Amendment" is relevantly defined as "an alteration of a legislative or deliberative act or in a constitution; a change made in a law, either by way of correction or addition," or "the correction of an error in a writ, record, or other judicial document."[65]The definition does not directly speak to the breadth of the change that can be made by amendment or provide any substantive limitations on amendments.

         With regard to limitations on the scope of amendments, the text of the predecessor provision to Article 12, § 2 was meaningfully changed soon after its ratification in 1908. When it was ratified, the Constitution gave the Legislature a veto over voter-initiated amendments before the election at which the proposal would appear on the ballot, and the Legislature could also submit alternative or substitute amendments.[66] Yet despite the Legislature's considerable oversight, the framers of the Constitution nonetheless thought that "the effect of this provision [i.e., the initiative provision] will be the submission to a vote of the electors of practically all amendments petitioned for."[67] In a telling passage of the Address to the People, the framers explained that legislative oversight of the amendments proposed by initiative was a crucial factor to the convention:

The convention realized the far-reaching effect that each amendment to the constitution may have beyond the immediate purpose intended by it, and it was deemed essential in so important a matter as changing the fundamental law of the state that the very greatest care should be required in both the form and substance of amendments to it. Such care is secured by requiring the amendments proposed to pass the scrutiny of the legislature.[68]

         But even the legislative veto-the clearest and most significant substantive check on the petition power-was deleted by amendment in 1913.[69] In light of this history, we should be wary of finding atextual limitations on voter-initiated amendments.

         The critical limitation in Article 12, § 2-at least based on the amount of discussion it prompted at the 1961-1962 convention-is instead the procedural requirement of obtaining a certain number of signatures. Originally, signatures in a number equal to 20 percent of the vote at the most recent election for secretary of state had to be collected, but in 1913 this threshold was reduced to 10 percent of the votes for Governor at the most recent general gubernatorial election.[70] The importance of this restriction in the constitutional framework was made abundantly clear by the framers of the 1963 Constitution, who engaged in a spirited debate regarding the signature requirement. At the convention, it was proposed, and briefly added to the constitution under consideration, that the 10 percent requirement be amended to include "or 300, 000 such registered electors, whichever shall be less."[71] The effect would have been to make it progressively easier to obtain enough signatures as the population increased. Delegate J. Harold Stevens successfully recommended striking this addition, arguing that the voter-initiated amendments should not be too easy to accomplish.[72] But his concern reflected his belief that initiative amendments should not be akin to "statutory matter."[73]He did not want to debase the Constitution by cluttering it with trivial amendments-in other words, he wanted amendments to be important enough to merit inclusion in a constitution. He was not, then, suggesting that initiative amendments should be limited to trivial matters; quite the contrary.[74]

         Thus, the convention decided to keep voter-initiated amendments difficult because amendments, like the Constitution itself, were intended to deal with serious matters. The convention accomplished its goal by imposing what it viewed as the clearest and most stringent limitation on initiative amendments: a signature requirement.[75]

         3. ARTICLE 12, §§ 2 AND 3: THE NEW-CONSTITUTION TEST

         The relevant substantive limitation on the scope of voter-initiated amendments arises from the text of Article 12, § 2 when read together with Article 12, § 3. By adopting these two different procedures for altering the Constitution, the framers intended that the mechanisms must be different in some regard. As one treatise similarly observed in 1910:

It may be argued . . . that if a constitution specifically provides two methods of alteration, the language employed with reference to the proposal of amendments by the legislative method may, when read with that concerning the convention method, often be construed as an implied prohibition of complete constitutional revision by the legislative method.[76]

         In other words, the distinction between changes proposed by amendments and changes proposed by a convention indicates a substantive difference that limits the breadth of amendments.

         Our Constitution tells us what this basic difference is. The result of a constitutional convention called to consider a "general revision" is a "proposed constitution or amendments" adopted by the convention and proposed to the electors.[77]The convention, then, can propose amendments to the existing Constitution or offer a new constitution.[78] By contrast, if approved, a voter-initiated amendment under Article 12, § 2 "shall become part of the constitution, and shall abrogate or amend existing provisions of the constitution . . . ."[79] Consequently, an amendment does not replace a constitution in full, but simply adds to or abrogates specific provisions in an existing constitution.[80] Thus, the constitutional text distinguishes between amendments that can be made by petition and new "constitutions." Because only the convention has the power to propose a constitution, by logical implication an initiative amendment cannot do so. And since this limitation would be meaningless if it only required a new constitution to be labeled as an amendment, it follows that an initiative amendment cannot propose changes that are tantamount to the creation of a new constitution.[81]

         The phrase "general revision" supports this dichotomy between amendments and "new" constitutions, although the phrase has engendered some confusion. The "purpose" of a convention is to consider "the question of a general revision of the constitution . . . ."[82] "General" means "dealing with all or the overall, universal aspects of the subject under consideration . . . ."[83] "Revision," in turn, is relevantly defined as "the act or work of revising."[84] This is how we characterized the term in Laing[85] and how it was described at the 1908 convention: "What is meant by revision or to revise? Why simply to re-examine for the purpose of correction-the act of reviewing or re-examination for the purpose of correction."[86] The "revision" is simply the process for reconsidering the constitution as a whole. It is not, as some Court of Appeals opinions suggest, [87] a particular document or proposed change. Thus a "revision" is not contradistinguished from an "amendment." Rather, as noted, the distinction between the Article 12, § 3 convention process and the Article 12, § 2 amendment process is that the former can produce a proposed constitution, while the latter is limited to proposing less sweeping changes.[88]

         Having determined that the relevant substantive limitation is that a voter-initiated amendment cannot be equivalent to a new constitution, we must determine what this limitation entails. As an initial matter, the number of changes is not dispositive, as even a limited number of changes can have the effect of creating a new constitution.[89] A constitution, after all, is more than words on a page. Its most basic functions are to create the form and structure of government, define and limit the powers of government, and provide for the protection of rights and liberties.[90] These are the basic threads of a constitution, and when they are removed, replaced, or radically rewoven, the whole tapestry of the constitution may change.

         Therefore, changes that significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government, in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution, are not amendments under Article 12, § 2.[91] Contrary to the suggestion in Pontiac Sch Dist, [92] it is not necessarily the impact on the operations of government that matters-like the United States Supreme Court, we decline to accept "the narrow-minded assumption" that the only purpose of our constitutional provisions "is to make the government run as efficiently as possible."[93] Further, a change that recalibrates the relative power of the branches of government-such as limiting or taking away a specific power from one branch-is not, absent a significant effect on the structure of government, a change that is tantamount to the creation of a new constitution.[94] Indeed, we have stated that, despite its eliminating power from the judiciary or executive branch, an amendment permitting indeterminate criminal sentences was "the people['s] exercise[] [of] a right inherent in them to adopt a constitutional amendment taking away from, or adding to, the powers of either of the departments of government."[95] In fact, it would be difficult to imagine many amendments that leave the proportionate powers of the branches completely unchanged.[96]

         IV. APPLICATION

         Given the above analysis, VNP's proposal will be considered a permissible amendment if it does not propose changes that significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government in a way that is tantamount to creating a new constitution. To answer this question, we must examine our current law on redistricting and apportionment and how VNP's proposal would change that law.

         A. APPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING

         Under our first three Constitutions, the Legislature was granted authority to redistrict.[97] But the Legislature did not always carry out this responsibility.[98] In light of this history, two competing voter-initiated amendments to the then-existing Constitution were placed on the November 1952 ballot.[99] One was approved, which wrote directly into the Constitution the then-existing alignment of seats in the Senate provided for in the 1952 amendment, added 10 seats to the House, and conferred upon the Board of State Canvassers the obligation to draw up new house districts if the Legislature failed to act.[100]Our present Constitution, as ratified by the voters in 1963, laid out a different framework for reapportionment and redistricting, although for reasons that will become clear below, it is not currently followed.[101] Under the Constitution, "the 38 members of Michigan's senate and the 110 members of the house of representatives are elected according to the district in which they reside. The Constitution sets forth the apportionment factors and rules for individual districts, which are redrawn after" the federal census is published.[102] The Constitution aligns the senate districts with counties and apportions senators based on "factors" consisting of percentages of the county's population and "land area" in the state.[103] The house districts were based on counties and apportioned according to population.[104] In other words, the apportionment was based on "weighted land area/population formulae."[105]

         A key innovation of the 1963 Constitution was to create a bipartisan "commission on legislative apportionment" to draw the relevant district lines.[106] The commission consisted of eight seats, with the major political parties each entitled to appoint four members.[107] The Secretary of State was the commission's nonvoting secretary, required to furnish "all necessary technical services," and the Legislature was required to "appropriate funds to enable the commission to carry out its activities."[108] The commission was required to "hold public hearings as may be provided by law."[109] The commission had to complete its work within 180 days of the census data becoming available.[110] Each final apportionment and districting plan adopted by the commission had to be published and would become law 60 days after publication.[111] If the commission could not agree on a plan, commissioners could submit plans to our Court, which was required to "determine which plan complies most accurately with the constitutional requirements" and direct that the plan be adopted.[112] The Court was also given jurisdiction over any application filed by electors within 60 days of publication of the plan.[113]

         As our present Constitution was being deliberated at the 1961-1962 constitutional convention, the United States Supreme Court was also considering constitutional challenges to apportionment schemes. In 1962, that Court held that challenges to apportionment plans were justiciable, setting the stage for vast changes in this area of law.[114] Two years later, in Reynolds v. Sims, the Court held that "the Equal Protection Clause requires that the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis."[115] Geographical considerations, such as apportionment based on counties, could no longer play a role in apportionment if they produced population deviations between the districts.[116] One week after Reynolds was decided, the United States Supreme Court peremptorily reversed a federal district court's earlier judgment that Michigan's apportionment rules were constitutional, which invalidated them.[117]

         Days after Reynolds was decided, we ordered the commission to adopt a new plan for redistricting and apportionment that complied with the Supreme Court's decisions in Reynolds and various related cases decided the same day.[118] When the commission failed to reach an agreement, we issued an opinion directing it to adopt the so-called Austin-Kleiner Plan, as it most closely adhered to the new constitutional requirements.[119] In a concurrence, Justice Souris argued that the commission "was so dependent upon the continuing validity of the [now unconstitutional apportionment formula] by which the commission's duties were specified and expressly limited, that it could not survive alone."[120]

         The apportionment issue was back before the Court in 1972 after the commission once again deadlocked and invoked our supervision.[121] We ordered the adoption of a proposed apportionment plan, but did not comment on the viability of the commission.[122]Justice T. G. Kavanagh dissented, reaching the same conclusion Justice Souris had in 1964: the commission could not exist-i.e., was not severable from-the unconstitutional apportionment standards in our Constitution.[123]

         In 1982, with yet another deadlocked commission seeking our supervision, we adopted the position of Justices Souris and T. G. Kavanagh by declaring that the commission was not severable from the unconstitutional apportionment provisions it was directed to implement.[124] We thought the commission was inseparable from the unconstitutional standards because holding otherwise would have required us to opine on whether the people would have voted for the commission without those standards.[125]Because the issue of changing how legislators are chosen is "a fundamental matter," we would not "speculate on a matter of such enormous importance."[126] Critically, we emphasized repeatedly that "[t]his is a decision which the people should make."[127] It was a decision, we suggested, that the people could initiate through a constitutional amendment:

The power to redistrict and reapportion the Legislature remains with the people. The people, however, can only exercise that power, as a practical matter, by amending the constitution, which, unless the Legislature proposes an amendment acceptable to the people, is a difficult and time-consuming process.[128]

         Tellingly, we noted in the same discussion that "[t]he initiative process is also difficult and time-consuming."[129] Because that process was slow, and a plan needed to be formulated in the meantime, we appointed an individual to oversee the drawing of a redistricting and apportionment plan consistent with various principles we established.[130]We noted, however, that the Legislature could draw its own plan, which would supersede the one we set in motion.[131] But again, we stressed that our plan was merely a stopgap that would "stand until the people act, or it is changed by the collective action of the other two branches of this government, composed of persons who are the most immediate representatives of the people."[132] It was not until 1996 that the Legislature codified apportionment standards and committed itself to drawing districts in the future.[133]

         Thus, the last time the voters had direct input on this issue, they opted for apportionment and redistricting to be conducted by a commission. The rules to be implemented by that commission have been declared unconstitutional, and we deactivated the commission by concluding that it was not severable from those unconstitutional rules. The Legislature now exercises a power that the Constitution of 1963 expressly denied to it-to draw legislative districts-because our Constitution has never been amended to modify the unconstitutional provisions concerning apportionment and redistricting.

         B. THE VNP PROPOSAL

         That is precisely what VNP's constitutional amendment proposes to do. To accomplish this task, the proposal would eliminate the current language in the Constitution laying out the apportionment formulae.[134] Instead, seven criteria are proposed, requiring that the districts must, in order of priority: (1) have "equal population as mandated by the United States Constitution," (2) "be geographically contiguous," (3) "reflect the state's diverse population and communities of interest," (4) "not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party," measured by "accepted measures of partisan fairness," (5) "not favor or disfavor an incumbent elected official," (6) "reflect consideration of county, city, and township boundaries," and (7) "be reasonably compact."[135]

         Rather than rewriting the constitutional section governing the commission, the VNP proposal simply deletes the language in Const 1963, art 4, § 6 establishing the commission.[136] In its place, the proposal offers a reformed commission that is similar to its predecessor.[137] Like the old one, it consists of four members from each major political party, but it would have five additional members who are declared independent voters.[138]All 13 members would be selected from a pool of candidates who have submitted applications, taken oaths, and met various other requirements.[139] The leaders of both parties in the Senate and House can strike, in total, 20 names from the applicant pools.[140]The commission, once selected, must hold public hearings and its contact with the public is regulated in detail by the proposal.[141] A plan is adopted only with at least two votes from each subgroup (Republicans, Democrats, and independents), as well as a majority of the whole.[142]

         The proposal continues nearly verbatim various ancillary provisions from the 1963 commission. The Secretary of State, for example, remains a nonvoting secretary of the commission, charged with providing the commission "all technical services that the commission deems necessary."[143] Likewise, the Legislature remains obligated to "appropriate funds" for the commission, although the proposal provides a detailed breakdown of what the funds go to, whereas the 1963 Constitution simply required the appropriation of sufficient funds "to enable the commission to carry out its activities."[144]Our Court has a similar, if perhaps narrower, jurisdictional grant under the proposal: we can "direct the Secretary of State or the commission to perform their respective duties," and we may also "review a challenge to any plan adopted by the commission" and "shall remand a plan to the commission for further action if the plan fails to comply with the requirements of this Constitution, the Constitution of the United States or superseding federal law."[145] The proposal adds various provisions clarifying that the commission's power is legislative and not subject to the Legislature's[146] or the Governor's[147] control, and the vesting clauses of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches are amended so as to vest power in their respective branches "except to the extent limited or abrogated" by certain of the new provisions.[148]

         C. ASSESSING THE PROPOSAL

         To determine whether VNP's proposal is a permissible amendment, we must ask whether it significantly alters or abolishes the form or structure of our government in a manner that is tantamount to creating a new constitution.[149]

         One central feature of the VNP amendment is that it sweeps away unconstitutional provisions that have remained in the Constitution for some time. The "weighted land area/population formulae" and the accompanying apportionment factors[150] are gone, and so counties would not be the organizing feature of redistricting plans. But these changes involve no great transformation because these features were held unconstitutional 36 years ago. In their place our state has used federal constitutional requirements and various state "guidelines, "[151] enacted in 1996, including that the districts "[be] areas of convenient territory contiguous by land, "[152] "preserve county lines with the least cost to the principle of equality of population, "[153] and remain as compact as possible when drawn within a city or township with multiple districts.[154] VNP's proposed standards reflect many of the same principles, including, of course, adhering to federal law, and also requiring contiguous districts, respecting municipal boundaries, and seeking reasonable compactness.[155] The proposal contains a few new items too, such as considerations of partisan fairness. But given their continuities with the current standards, VNP's proposed standards are no revolution in redistricting, and they certainly do not portend a transformation of our form or structure of government.

         As noted above, various provisions in VNP's proposal mirror those in the current Constitution. The Secretary of State has substantially the same general responsibilities, being the nonvoting secretary of the commission responsible for furnishing its needs.[156]The Secretary of State has more detailed obligations under the proposal, involving the formation of the commission.[157] But these tasks are ministerial and in line with our current Constitution-requiring the Secretary of State to manage applications or other records is business as usual, not a new way of governing Michigan.[158]

         Since plaintiffs and the Chief Justice's dissent concede that "the people can alter the power of redistricting by amending the Constitution, "[159] the more significant argument against the VNP proposal is that it disrupts the separation of powers. The powers are most glaringly reconfigured, according to plaintiffs, by the proposal's inclusion of limiting language in the vesting clauses of each branch. The legislative, executive, and judicial branches are given their respective powers "except to the extent limited or abrogated" by certain parts of the proposal.[160] The dissent takes the position that these changes "fundamentally change the operation of our government" by limiting the vested powers of the branches and creating a new commission with responsibility for redistricting.[161] We disagree.

         The limitations in the vesting clauses are, in many ways, the result of VNP's attempt to comply with other requirements in Article 12, § 2. By including this language, the proposal simply seeks to harmonize its changes with the rest of the Constitution. This is important because Article 12, § 2 requires that the proposal republish for the voters any portion of the present Constitution that the proposed amendments would alter or abrogate.[162] This requirement has kept at least one proposal off the ballot in the recent past.[163] By explicitly adding limitations to the vesting clauses here, VNP sought to avoid any argument that it was implicitly altering or abrogating the vesting clauses or other parts of the Constitution. More broadly, by adding this language, the proposal makes explicit what would have been implicit without the language-the proposal does have some effect on the responsibilities and powers of the branches of government. But the proposed language in the vesting clauses tells us nothing useful to the critical inquiry: just how significant are the changes? The proposal is in jeopardy only if the changes are equivalent to the creation of a new constitution. To answer that question, we have to examine the proposed changes that affect the branches' relative powers.

         To begin, consider how the proposal would change the present Constitution with regard to the Legislature. The present Constitution does not accord the Legislature any role in the redistricting or apportionment process. Instead, like VNP's proposal, a commission is placed in charge. The commissions are materially similar. Both are charged with drawing a redistricting plan based on various guidelines. And while the guidelines have changed, as explained above, VNP's proposal actually reflects many of the same standards currently used. The major difference between the 1963 Constitution's commission and VNP's is the process by which commission members are chosen. VNP's proposal is undoubtedly more elaborate on this point. Nonetheless, as with the old commission, VNP's proposal seeks to ensure that the membership strikes a partisan balance. In fact, in doing so, VNP's proposal gives the Legislature a formal role in the process, with the majority and minority leaders of each house entitled to a certain number of vetoes on members.[164] The Legislature has no such role in the 1963 Constitution's commission. If anything, then, VNP's proposal increases, slightly, the Legislature's participation in the process over the level contemplated in 1963. And the Legislature's new, minor role does not come at the expense of either of the other two branches, which have no real part in this process.

         Of course, we are not oblivious to the fact that the Legislature, since 1996, has established the standards and framework for redistricting, as well as drafted the plans.[165]But the current state of affairs is a deviation from what the voters chose when they ratified the 1963 Constitution.[166] Under the 1963 Constitution, the power to draw districts never belonged to the Legislature. Rather, its present role is solely due to a judicial remedy we crafted in light of our conclusion that the unconstitutional apportionment standards the commission was directed to implement could not be severed from the commission itself.[167] Nothing about the commission was intrinsically unconstitutional. Thus, to the extent that the Legislature's power is being diminished, that power had not been granted by the people through the Constitution. If anything, VNP's proposal is an attempt to correct the constitutional deficiencies so that the basic design of the 1963 Constitution-which created an independent redistricting commission-can be implemented. We cannot reasonably conclude that this effort to revivify and improve upon a feature of the present Constitution amounts to a substantial alteration in the form or structure of our government.[168]

         The executive branch is not significantly affected by the proposal. Under the 1963 Constitution, the executive played no role in redistricting except for the Secretary of State's various responsibilities. Those would expand under VNP's proposal, as noted above, but not in any material respect. VNP's proposal neither adds to nor subtracts from any other responsibilities or powers of the executive branch compared to its position under the present Constitution. Any additional powers the executive might currently have-such as a veto over the Legislature's statutorily drawn redistricting-do not flow from a constitutional grant of power, but instead from the provisional situation that has been created by declaring the 1963 commission to be inseverable from the unconstitutional apportionment standards.

         Finally, VNP's proposal only modestly changes the judicial branch's role in the redistricting process. The 1963 Constitution has provided this Court with jurisdiction when the commission reached an impasse, which it often did.[169] In such cases, the commission members could submit proposed plans to this Court, and we would have to select the one that best reflected constitutional requirements.[170] Additionally, the Constitution provided us original jurisdiction over applications by electors after the commission published a plan-we could then direct the Secretary of State and the commission to "perform their duties," review the commission's proposed plan, and remand the plan to the commission "if it fails to comply with the requirements of this constitution."[171] Thus, the Constitution offered this Court a limited array of options to review redistricting plans. VNP's proposal does likewise. In some ways, in fact, the review is slightly broader. When the original commission failed to reach agreement under the current Constitution, this Court was empowered only to select between the plans proposed by the commission members. Under VNP's proposal, we can review any challenge to a plan for compliance not only with this Constitution, but also the United States Constitution and "superseding federal law."[172] Thus, the Court would no longer have the option to choose a plan-from those presented-but it would maintain the same general powers it wielded under the 1963 Constitution as ratified.[173]

         In sum, VNP's proposal leaves the form and structure of the government essentially as it was envisioned in the 1963 Constitution. Consequently, it is not equivalent to a new constitution and is therefore a permissible amendment under Const 1963, art 12, § 2.[174]

         This conclusion finds support from a host of other considerations. It is consistent with the expectations of key members of the 1961-1962 constitutional convention, as evidenced by their discussion of the signature requirement in Article 12, § 2. During that discussion, which centered on whether to add an alternative requiring only 300, 000 signatures, [175] some delegates expressed the belief that a voter-initiated amendment could be used to change the apportionment system, which was a noted problem at the convention. One delegate-referring to the United States Supreme Court's then-recent decision in Baker v. Carr, which opened the door to constitutional challenges to redistricting[176]-thought that the initiative could be "a remedy to the problem of reapportionment."[177] Delegate Stevens, one of the leading proponents of keeping the amendment process difficult, agreed, opining that "the initiative could be used for amending the constitution to make apportionment . . . or changing the apportionment easier."[178]

         Similarly, when declaring the redistricting commission not viable in 1982, this Court suggested that our apportionment system could be addressed through an amendment to the Constitution initiated by the people.[179] Our statement, quoted above, bears repeating: "The power to redistrict and reapportion the Legislature remains with the people."[180] It was only because the amendment process-whether initiated by the Legislature or the people-was time-consuming that we invited the Legislature to fill the void.[181] As Justice Levin later explained, our approach in 1982 was based, in part, on the "assumption . . . that responsible persons would come forth and place on the ballot, and the people would adopt, new apportionment rules in time for the 1992 and 1994 elections. Indeed, that was one of the arguments for non-severability-to highlight the need for a new constitutional provision regarding legislative apportionment."[182] "The Court's exhortation," he added, "has not been heeded."[183]

         The history of our constitutional amendments, too, supports treating VNP's proposal as a proper voter-initiated amendment.[184] Most directly, the voters have in the past proposed a number of amendments dealing with apportionment, [185] including one successful amendment that, in certain circumstances, expressly stripped the Legislature of the power to redistrict. In 1952, voters initiated two competing constitutional amendments addressing apportionment.[186] The successful amendment "guaranteed the decennial reapportionment of the house of representatives substantially on a population basis, and fixed senate districts permanently in the constitution . . . ."[187] The Legislature was responsible for reapportioning the house, but, critically, if it failed to do so "in accordance with the mandate of this [constitutional] article, the board of state canvassers" was required to reapportion the districts.[188] In other words, the voters initiated an amendment that, in certain cases, eliminated the Legislature's reapportionment power and gave it to an agency in the executive branch. By comparison, VNP's proposal is more modest-the present Constitution prescribes a commission for these purposes, and VNP's amendment would retain that commission. The voters have also approved, in the past, various amendments creating commissions or affecting the powers of government at various levels and branches.[189]

         Other states have created independent redistricting commissions through voter-initiated amendments, including Arizona and California.[190] And the issue of whether to create such a commission has appeared on the ballot, by virtue of the initiative process, numerous times in multiple states.[191] Similarly, citizens in several states have employed initiatives to accomplish redistricting.[192]

         Our conclusion today is also reinforced by the reasoning in Bess v. Ulmer, which addressed a similar argument concerning a similar ballot proposal.[193] In Bess, a "Legislative Resolve" placed a proposed amendment before the voters that would remove the reapportionment power from the executive branch (where the state's constitution had placed it) and transfer it to a "neutral body."[194] Using a test similar to what the Court of Appeals employed in this case-focusing on the quantity and quality of the proposed changes and whether the changes were few, simple, and of less importance-the Alaska Supreme Court determined that the proposal was an amendment:

Reassigning this power is unquestionably a significant change in the present system of Alaskan government. It does not, however, deprive the executive branch of a "foundational power," and as a result does not constitute a revision. As the quantitative effect of the proposal is minimal, the qualitative force of this narrow change would have to be greater to satisfy our hybrid test. The essential function of the executive branch-to enforce the laws of the state-remains unchanged, as does its structure. No executive power is delegated to either of the other two branches. In fact, the intent of the Framers in giving the reapportionment power to the executive was primarily to prevent the abuse or neglect of that power in the hands of the legislature, rather than to safeguard a uniquely executive function.[195]

         In our case, the framers of the 1963 Constitution did not assign the apportionment power to any elected body, and so the effect of the changes here would be even less significant than that in Bess.[196]

         Thus, our holding here reflects the constitutional text, our historical experience, logic, and the wisdom of other states. For all the above reasons, then, we conclude that VNP's proposal does not create the equivalent of a new constitution by significantly altering or abolishing the form or structure of our government and is, instead, a permissible voter-initiated amendment.[197]

         V. CONCLUSION

         The question we face today has broad significance for the people of this state: what limitations have they placed, in the Constitution they ratified, on their power to put forward voter-initiated amendments? This question implicates some of the oldest and most perplexing problems in political theory, such as the nature of sovereignty, republicanism, and democracy. But it is not a judge's role to philosophize a theory of government. Rather, we are stewards of the people and must faithfully abide by the decisions they make through the laws they adopt. We accomplish this by adhering to the plain meaning of the text of those laws. Here, that approach leads us to conclude that a voter-initiated amendment under Const 1963, art 12, § 2 is permissible if it does not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government, making it tantamount to creating a new constitution. VNP's proposal surpasses these hurdles and is a permissible voter-initiated amendment under Article 12, § 2. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. Pursuant to MCR 7.315(C)(3), the Clerk of the Court is directed to issue the judgment forthwith.

          Markman, C.J. (dissenting).

         I respectfully dissent from the majority's affirmance of the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The majority concludes that the proposal at issue, i.e., the Voters Not Politicians (VNP) proposal, is eligible for placement on the November 2018 election ballot by the initiative process of Const 1963, art 12, § 2. I dissent because I conclude that the proposal constitutes a "general revision" of the Constitution and thus is eligible for placement on the ballot only by the convention process of Const 1963, art 12, § 3.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case, I would emphasize, does not concern whether the VNP proposal is wise or unwise, prudent or imprudent. Nor does it concern whether the people of this state possess the ultimate authority to restructure the government of this state, for they indisputably do. Rather, it concerns only whether the VNP proposal is better understood as a constitutional "amendment," and thus eligible for placement on the ballot by the initiative process, or a "general revision" of the Constitution, and thus eligible for placement on the ballot only by the convention process.

         The "people" have been referenced frequently during oral argument and by the majority opinion, as if merely to invoke their name compels the conclusion that the present measure must be placed on the ballot. However, the "people" wear many hats. The "people" invoke the initiative process, or at least 315, 654 "people" do so; the "people" vote on the initiative process; "[w]e, the people" have ordained and established our Constitution, Const 1963, preamble; all political power is inherent in the "people," Const 1963, art 1, § 1; government is instituted for the equal benefit, security, and protection of the "people," id.; laws and ordinances issued under the Constitution define the rights and responsibilities of the "people"; and, of course, 13 "people," all randomly selected, are to sit on the commission established by the VNP proposal. After assessing the interests of the "people" in this matter, I believe that what is most significant is that these "people" have made it reasonably clear that the permanent things of their Constitution are not to be cast away lightly-- that while ultimately the "people" do possess the authority to restructure their own charter of government, as to the most fundamentally redefining of these changes, this restructuring will be done only after the most reflective and deliberative processes of decision-making. And my further assessment persuades me that the "people" would find "fundamentally redefining" a restructuring of their Constitution that deprived them and their chosen representatives of any role in the foundational process of our system of self-government-- the process by which election districts are established, citizens are joined together or separated by political boundaries, and the building blocks of our governing institutions are determined. Inserted in place is the governance of 13 randomly selected "people" entirely lacking in any democratic or electoral relationship with the other 10 million "people" of this state or their elected representatives. In the end, the "people" must be allowed to do as they see fit; they can diminish the realm of governance of their representatives (and substitute in its place an "independent" and unaccountable commission) and they can dilute the relationship between themselves and their representatives, but the "people," as I understand them to have spoken through their Constitution, have also insisted that, before a change of this magnitude takes place, a serious and considered public conversation must first take place, affording opportunities for sustained and focused debate, give-and-take, compromise, and modification.

         Furthermore, references to the fact that the commission is to be "independent" obscures the fundamental change that the proposed measure would make to the "people's" Constitution as well; the great value of our Constitution is not the "independence" of public bodies but rather the separation of powers and the checks and balances that define relationships between public bodies and thereby limit and constrain their authority. While the VNP commission would indeed be "independent," most conspicuously, it would be "independent" of the people's representatives in the Legislature, independent of the people, and independent of the processes of self-government, especially the processes by which the "people"-- in whose name both VNP and the majority purport to speak-- exert their impact upon the "foundational" process of redistricting. Our constitutional heritage is poorly described by advocates of this proposal as one predicated upon the "independence" of public bodies; it is far better described as predicated upon the exercise of public authority that is limited, separated, subject to appropriate checks and balances, and accountable to the citizenry. The proposed new commission is grounded upon none of these. Whatever its merits, the creation of this commission would effect "fundamental" change upon both our constitutional charter and the system of government operating under this charter. It thus clearly warrants the kind of careful deliberation best afforded by the processes of constitutional "revision" set forth in Article 12, § 3 of this state's Constitution.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The people have reserved to themselves the authority to modify the Constitution by petition and popular vote. "This Court has consistently protected the right of the people to amend their Constitution in this way, while enforcing constitutional and statutory safeguards that the people placed on the exercise of that right." Protect Our Jobs v. Bd of State Canvassers, 492 Mich. 763, 772; 822 N.W.2d 534 (2012). Indeed, a century ago, in Scott v. Secretary of State, 202 Mich. 629, 643; 168 N.W. 709 (1918), this Court stated:

Of the right of qualified voters of the State to propose amendments to the Constitution by petition it may be said, generally, that it can be interfered with neither by the legislature, the courts, nor the officers charged with any duty in the premises. But the right is to be exercised in a certain way and according to certain conditions, the limitations upon its exercise, like the reservation of the right itself, being found in the Constitution. [Emphasis added.]

         In the instant case, we must decide whether the right is being exercised "in a certain way and according to certain conditions . . . being found in the Constitution." Id.

         Const 1963, art 12, § 2 addresses amendments of the Constitution through the initiative process and provides:

Amendments may be proposed to this constitution by petition of the registered electors of this state. Every petition shall include the full text of the proposed amendment, and be signed by registered electors of the state equal in number to at least 10 percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor at the last preceding general election at which a governor was elected. Such petitions shall be filed with the person authorized by law to receive the same at least 120 days before the election at which the proposed amendment is to be voted upon. Any such petition shall be in the form, and shall be signed and circulated in such manner, as prescribed by law. The person authorized by law to receive such petition shall upon its receipt determine, as provided by law, the validity and sufficiency of the signatures on the petition, and make an official announcement thereof at least 60 days prior to the election at which the proposed amendment is to be voted upon.
Any amendment proposed by such petition shall be submitted, not less than 120 days after it was filed, to the electors at the next general election. Such proposed amendment, existing provisions of the constitution which would be altered or abrogated thereby, and the question as it shall appear on the ballot shall be published in full as provided by law. Copies of such publication shall be posted in each polling place and furnished to news media as provided by law.
The ballot to be used in such election shall contain a statement of the purpose of the proposed amendment, expressed in not more than 100 words, exclusive of caption. Such statement of purpose and caption shall be prepared by the person authorized by law, and shall consist of a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the amendment in such language as shall create no prejudice for or against the proposed amendment.
If the proposed amendment is approved by a majority of the electors voting on the question, it shall become part of the constitution, and shall abrogate or amend existing provisions of the constitution at the end of 45 days after the date of the election at which it was approved. If two or more amendments approved by the electors at the same election conflict, that amendment receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail.

         Const 1963, art 12, § 3 addresses general revisions of the Constitution through the convention process and provides:

At the general election to be held in the year 1978, and in each 16th year thereafter and at such times as may be provided by law, the question of a general revision of the constitution shall be submitted to the electors of the state. If a majority of the electors voting on the question decide in favor of a convention for such purpose, at an election to be held not later than six months after the proposal was certified as approved, the electors of each representative district as then organized shall elect one delegate and the electors of each senatorial district as then organized shall elect one delegate at a partisan election. The delegates so elected shall convene at the seat of government on the first Tuesday in October next succeeding such election or at an earlier date if provided by law.
The convention shall choose its own officers, determine the rules of its proceedings and judge the qualifications, elections and returns of its members. To fill a vacancy in the office of any delegate, the governor shall appoint a qualified resident of the same district who shall be a member of the same party as the delegate vacating the office. The convention shall have power to appoint such officers, employees and assistants as it deems necessary and to fix their compensation; to provide for the printing and distribution of its documents, journals and proceedings; to explain and disseminate information about the proposed constitution and to complete the business of the convention in an orderly manner. Each delegate shall receive for his services compensation provided by law.
No proposed constitution or amendment adopted by such convention shall be submitted to the electors for approval as hereinafter provided unless by the assent of a majority of all the delegates elected to and serving in the convention, with the names and vote of those voting entered in the journal. Any proposed constitution or amendments adopted by such convention shall be submitted to the qualified electors in the manner and at the time provided by such convention not less than 90 days after final adjournment of the convention. Upon the approval of such constitution or amendments by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon the constitution or amendments shall take effect as provided by the convention.

         This Court has long recognized that there is a rational distinction between an "amendment" and a "revision." Kelly v. Laing, 259 Mich. 212; 242 N.W. 891 (1932); Sch Dist of City of Pontiac v. City of Pontiac, 262 Mich. 338, 345; 247 N.W. 474 (1933). In Kelly, this Court addressed this distinction in the context of proposed changes to a municipality's home-rule charter. As we then explained:

Revision implies a re-examination of the whole law and a redraft without obligation to maintain the form, scheme, or structure of the old. As applied to fundamental law, such as a constitution or charter, it suggests a convention to examine the whole subject and to prepare and submit a new instrument, whether the desired changes from the old be few or many. Amendment implies continuance of the general plan and purport of the law, with corrections to better accomplish its purpose. Basically, revision suggests fundamental change, while amendment is a correction of detail. [Kelly, 259 Mich. at 217 (emphasis added).]

Furthermore:

An amendment is usually proposed by persons interested in a specific change and little concerned with its effect upon other provisions of the charter. The machinery of revision is in line with our historical and traditional system of changing fundamental law by convention, which experience has shown best adapted to make necessary readjustments. [Id. at 221-222 (emphasis added).]

         Finally, we held in Kelly that "[b]oth from the number of changes in the charter and the result upon the form of government, the proposal to abolish the office of city manager requires revision of the charter and must be had by the method the statute provides therefor." Id. at 223-224 (emphasis added).[1]

         Subsequently, in Pontiac Sch Dist, 262 Mich. at 345, we held that a proposed amendment regarding property taxes constituted an amendment, rather than a revision, because it "does not so interfere with or modify the operation of governmental agencies as to render it other than an amendment by way of an addition to the Constitution." (Emphasis added.)[2]

         Thereafter, in Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State, 280 Mich.App. 273, 305; 761 N.W.2d 210 (2008) (Citizens), the Court of Appeals held that "in order to determine whether a proposal effects a 'general revision' of the constitution, and is therefore not subject to the initiative process established for amending the constitution, the Court must consider both the quantitative nature and the qualitative nature of the proposed changes." (Emphasis added.) "More specifically, the determination depends on not only the number of proposed changes, or whether a wholly new constitution is being offered, but on the scope of the proposed changes and the degree to which those changes would interfere with, or modify, the operation of government." Id. (emphasis added). The Court of Appeals ruled that the Reform Michigan Government Now! (RMGN) proposal constituted a general revision, id. at 307, and this Court affirmed in an order, Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State, 482 Mich. 960 (2008).[3]

         Most recently, in Protect Our Jobs v. Bd of State Canvassers, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued August 27, 2012 (Docket No. 311828), addressing whether a proposed amendment concerning collective bargaining rights was a general revision or an amendment, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the proposed initiative was an amendment because it "is limited to a single subject matter, and it only directly adds one section to the constitution and changes one other . . . ." Id. at 2. The panel further held that "[t]he initiative proposal here is far more akin to a correction of detail than a fundamental change, when viewed in the proper context of the constitution as a whole." Id. at 2-3 (emphasis added). On appeal, this Court affirmed, but on wholly different grounds dealing with the republication requirement. Protect Our Jobs, 492 Mich. 763.

         III. STANDARDS

         What I believe fairly can be derived from these decisions is that for at least the past 85 years in Michigan, governing law concerning direct constitutional change has been characterized by the following: (a) alternative constitutional procedures exist for instituting such change and (b) determining which of these procedures is to be utilized in a particular instance requires an assessment of the "qualitative nature" of the proposed change-- that is, the extent to which the proposal "[impacts] our form of government, "

          entails "fundamental" change, or "would interfere with, or modify, the operation of government." While these standards have been phrased differently over time in judicial decisions, they are nonetheless consistent in supplying this common guidance.

         While reasonable persons therefore may articulate these standards in slightly different ways, as indeed might the justices on this dissent, these standards are nonetheless consistent and compatible with each other, as well as with what is required by our Constitution, in distinguishing between the realms of the initiative and the convention. And while election disputes tend disproportionately to arise in the same circumstances as this case, this counsels in favor of greater rather than lesser deference to reasonably settled standards, while the majority purports to alter these standards. I say "purports" because, as discussed in further detail later, I do not believe that the majority's application of its standard in this case is actually all that different from these longstanding standards, only that the majority articulates its standard in a novel manner.

         The Court of Appeals in the instant case purported to apply the standards set forth in Citizens and Protect Our Jobs. Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State, __Mich App__;__ N.W.2d__ (2018) (Docket No. 343517) (CPMC). The first question then concerns whether these decisions articulated the proper standard for determining whether a proposal constitutes an "amendment" or a "revision," and I believe that they do, although I would clarify several points. Most importantly, I believe that the ultimate judicial assessment depends most upon the qualitative nature of the proposed changes, i.e., whether these would "fundamentally" alter the nature or operation of our government. Although the quantitative nature of the proposed changes may sometimes also be relevant in this assessment, it is not determinative or even on an equal footing with the qualitative nature of the proposed changes. For example, if there were a proposal to modify all the references to "he" in the Constitution with "he or she," that would constitute a substantial quantitative change. However, it would not seemingly implicate anything fundamental in a qualitative sense, and therefore the proposal would almost certainly constitute an "amendment" rather than a "revision." On the other hand, if there were a proposal to transform the position of the governor into a lifetime appointment, although this would require relatively few textual modifications in the Constitution, ...


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