Redistricting Commission Adopts Maps For Congress, Senate, House
January 4, 2022
After a year of sometimes rocky collaboration, questions about transparency, and plenty of public comments, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Tuesday (MICRC) approved Congressional, State Senate, and State House district maps that will be used through the 2030 election cycle.
With enough votes from Republican, Democrat, and nonpartisan members of the MICRC, all three maps were adopted by a roll call vote. If any map had less than two from each group voting yes (2-2-2), it would have gone to rank-choice voting.
MIRS predicted the three adopted maps earlier this month after they were available for public comment.
Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, applauded the effort.
“Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group of citizens from across the state and the political spectrum, made history today by adopting the first maps in our state’s history to be drawn using a fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process,” she said in a statement. “The Commission took thousands of public comments and incorporated them into their decision making. They carried out the will of the 2.5 million Michiganders who voted to end gerrymandering and put political power back in the hands of voters – not politicians.”
But the process wasn’t perfect, as many commissioners noted Tuesday and multiple times in the past as maps came together. Still, members of the MICRC weren’t concerned about that goal when looking back at their work.
“We walked into this process and we knew we weren’t going to make it perfect,” said Commissioner Douglas Clark. “But we knew the expectation in the community (with) Michigan citizens was they wanted as close to perfect as we could get it. Many of them recognize that it’s an impossible task to make it perfect, and not everybody’s going to be happy with the results because we live in a diverse community, diverse society, and we just can’t meet everybody’s needs 100 percent.”
That diverse community was tested with Detroit districts, as there was consistent criticism throughout the process that Black neighborhoods were being marginalized and left without a voice. Commissioner Brittni Kellom, who is from Detroit and has been a vocal proponent of Black issues being addressed by the MICRC, was emotional speaking about those issues.
“I know Black people all over, but particularly in Detroit, will continue, unfortunately, to do what they need to do to survive, which is to galvanize and to be active and to do what they need to do,” she said. “Do I wish that there was more time to get it right? Absolutely. Because I truly believe that the way that you answer and restore pain and healing is to give people a head start, and a head start is not cheating when you’ve gone so long without.”
Kellom continued that the other commissioners needed more time to feel and experience what it was like to live in Detroit, and that could have helped them.
“They’re drawing an area that they don’t know and then there’s a sense of nervousness,” she said, but added that she believes the maps will hold up in court, including issues with Detroit.
In terms of complying with the Voting Rights Act to give a voice to Black communities in the new maps, MICRC Chair Rebecca Szeteka said it was too early to know if they’ve satisfied that requirement in an actual election.
“We’re just going to have to see what happens as elections proceed, and I hope to God that we are correct and that we have created the adequate amount of voters to have adequate representation for the Black community, because I think that is so critically important,” she said. “I would feel terrible in hindsight, if (we) haven’t done that, but again, we just don’t have the data to drive those decisions unfortunately.”
Promote The Vote was critical in their response to the MICRC maps in a statement released after the adoption.
“The maps the commission voted on today simply are not good enough. When we look at the Voting Rights Act, U.S. Constitution, and the State Constitution, these commission-approved maps don’t measure up,” the group said in the statement. “The result of this process, which will control Michigan’s elections and impact public policy for the next 10 years, should have embraced the needs of all voters and provided them with fair representation.”
The Chestnut Congressional map passed with eight votes, the lowest majority total among the three approved maps. Current and hopeful Congresspeople were quick to comment on their re-election plans, with some even moving districts.
The State Senate map discussion could have led to rank-choice voting with a 2-2-2 threshold not having been met. Commissioner Clark came into the meeting with reservations about Linden and wanting to go another route, but when it came time for a voice vote, he went with the majority to give it the needed second Republican yes vote.
“I did want to spend some time today and discuss my logic in putting the plan together, and then I did not vote for it,” he said. “I did not see where we had support enough that it was going to pass and the public consistently had indicated that the Linden map was superior to the others.”
Clark added that he and other commissioners decided they would listen to the public and vote with that information.
The final map voted on, and the one that had the most discussion both in MICRC meetings and throughout the 45-day public comment period, was for the State House. Ultimately though, the Hickory State House map passed with the most support with 11 yes votes. Only Commissioners Rhonda Lange and Erin Wagner voted for other maps.
The day started out with Lange questioning whether further maps could be considered besides what was already through the 45-day public comment period.
“We’ve received a lot of public comment regarding this very topic,” she said. “I think the consensus, what the public comment is, everybody wants maps to be fair, they want more consideration given to communities of interest, more consideration given to VRA (Voting Rights Act) and other things, and I think we owe it to the public, the state, to do that.”
She stated she wasn’t happy with any of the maps personally.
“I guess I envisioned when we did the maps that we would take into consideration, we would definitively pick communities of interest and have them all on one map, not making winners and losers on five maps,” she said.
Commissioner Dustin Witjes replied to Lange’s criticism of their map choices.
“One, I’m proud of all the maps that we have,” he said. “Second, if we were to redraw maps, we’re going to have other people say we need to redraw maps again 45 days from now. It’s going to be an endless cycle, an endless loop, and it’s not going to get anywhere.”
The question was brought up later by Lange as to whether or not the current maps being proposed could be altered. This motion was put up for a vote, which failed 9-4.
The MICRC was asked what another 45-day public comment period would be used for. Chair Szetela said they would obviously work on more maps to submit to public comment, but they would also have more data to work with rather than waiting to receive information while working on a timeframe that was closing each day. “I think it was just a balancing act of trying to follow the Constitution, trying to understand the law, and working with the data that we had to come up with maps on – a very tight timeframe,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, the maps we have are good. I think they’re good maps and I think they are 1,000 times an improvement on anything that has been in the state of Michigan in the last 10 years. I hope that the public is happy with them and I hope that people feel well-represented by them.”