ANDRE VASHER

Groundcover contributor

Michigan has brand new electoral maps designed through an innovative new process and the state’s politics will never be the same. They were drawn up by a citizen commission, Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which resulted from a successful statewide ballot proposal in 2018. Its objectives are to achieve independence and fairness by removing redistricting from the hands of politicians. While not perfect, Michigan’s redistricting process provides hope for the rest of our country in this time of tremendous bipartisan tension.

The promise

“All political power is inherent in the people.” This statement, drawn from the Constitution of the State of Michigan, served as the overall guideline for the formation of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. As a result of the MICRC’s work, our state has new electoral maps that will take effect prior to the 2022 primary and general elections.

The electoral maps create new Congressional districts, new Senate districts, and new House districts for the State of Michigan. The new boundaries were derived from the findings from the 2020 census. Michigan’s now 13 (it was 14) Congressional Districts are highlighted to the right. 

The process

All the new maps from the MICRC’s work can be viewed in greater detail online at: https://michigan.mydistricting.com/legdistricting/comments/plan/254/23

The MICRC was established after Michigan voters approved a 2018 constitutional amendment that transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to an independent redistricting commission. Under the terms of the amendment, “Within 30 days after adopting a plan, the commission shall publish the plan and the material reports, reference materials, and data used in drawing it, including any programming information used to produce and test the plan.” The adopted plan becomes law 60 days after the MICRC publishes their report. 

Per Clara Hendrickson and Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press, “According to three measures of partisan fairness based on statewide election data from the past decade, the map favors Republicans. But those measures also show a significant reduction in the Republican bias compared to the map drawn a decade ago by a Republican legislature, deemed one of the most politically biased maps in the country.”

 The status

The new voting districts have been approved by the state legislators, but the Detroit Caucus, a group of lawmakers representing the city in the state legislature, has filed a lawsuit seeking to increase the share of black voters in certain districts. The MICRC redistricting commission argued in a recent court filing this suit could actually threaten Black voters’ representation. In addition, certain Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit challenging aspects of the congressional map.

While the outcomes of these suits are pending (at the time of publication), the current maps will be used in upcoming elections, and if changes are needed, the redistricting commission will be the group tasked with making them. 

As mentioned previously, while not perfect, Michigan’s redistricting process stands above other states’ efforts in terms of removing partisan bias from the process.  A recent Zoom event sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research sheds further light on the redistricting process. In that January 19 session, noted author and political observer David Daley commented on the mixed results of redistricting efforts in states such as Arizona and Ohio while noting the objectivity of Michigan’s process.

For a replay of this session on Michigan’s redistricting go online to https://fordschool.umich.edu/events/past and search keywords ‘Michigan redistricting.’ 

The MICRC continues to support community outreach and communications to explain their redistricting process and the conclusions they reached. No redistricting effort makes everyone happy, but as state residents we should feel proud of an initiative trying to place political power with the people, not with the politicians.

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