There’s no wiggle room in the language of the constitutional amendment that established the Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission. The law states plainly the commission “shall conduct all of its business at open meetings.”

Shall, not may.

And yet the 13-member panel redrawing the state’s political boundary lines seems perplexed by that unequivocal mandate, as do some of the purported experts who are offering it advice on how to conduct its business.

Thursday, the commissioners heard from Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, who suggested they should take secret votes on the maps instead of voting in a public meeting.

“As you go towards the final vote … we hope that you will adopt best practices like putting all the maps on the same ballot and voting by secret ballots,” Wang said.

Wang’s voice carries influence because her organization led the ballot initiative that brought the “People Not Politicians” proposal before voters. She should know better than to advocate against the transparency the law demands of the process.

Secret votes are not a “best practice” under any circumstance in which the people’s business is being decided.

While we hope and expect the commission to ignore Wang’s urgings and adhere to the law, our confidence is not high, given the panel’s track record.

On Oct. 27, the commission abruptly closed its meeting, ushering out the media and public while it discussed a report from its attorneys on the Voting Rights Act. While the panel has not met in secret again, it also has not responded to demands to make public the information that was discussed behind closed doors.

State media organizations are weighing a lawsuit to force the panel to adhere to its commitment to transparency. Attorney General Dana Nessel has yet to issue an opinion that could avert a legal showdown.

Taxpayers of Michigan, as well as the newsrooms of Michigan, have better uses of their resources than fighting in court over a mandate plainly spelled out in the Michigan constitution.

In addition, earlier this month the redistricting commission ignored the advice of its own legal counsel and set limits on when members can submit individual proposed maps. This appears to conflict with the language of the constitutional amendment as well.

“We’re clarifying our interpretation of the statute, or of the constitutional amendment,” said commission chairwoman Rebecca Szetela. “We are not rewriting or redefining the constitution. We’re just defining how we’re going to interpret it.”

That sounds a lot like the chairwoman is just fine with “redefining” a clearly written law, and it’s not her place to do that. Such flippant comments undermine the credibility of the commission.

This new process for redistricting has every ability to be just what was promised—a transparent and non-partisan exercise that will help restore confidence in the electoral process.

That won’t happen if members flee into the backrooms where cronyism and self-dealing have prevailed in the past.