LANSING, Mich. — The independent group in charge of redrawing Michigan’s political district maps is more than halfway through its scheduled public hearings and working against a looming deadline to complete the new maps.
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) is in the process of holding 16 public hearings across the state to gather public input on the new district maps. The maps must be drawn in a fair way and account for things like geography, population size, and groups of people who share the same concerns also called communities of interest.
“We’ve had people identifying particular communities of interest, just to give you an example when we were in Dearborn we heard about the Arab-American community, when we were up in Pontiac we heard about the Asian Pacific Islander and Indian communities, and then when we were in Detroit we heard about the African American community,” said Commissioner Rebecca Szetela. “We’re getting lots of information, lots of people telling us about their communities of interest.”
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The way a district is drawn plays a large role in who gets elected and who doesn't. In the past, whichever political party held a majority in the state legislature was in charge of redrawing the district lines every 10 years, a practice that led to less competitive elections.
The commission was created by the state's voters in 2018 to prevent that process from continuing.
“Michigan’s current district maps were created behind closed doors by partisan actors whose primary interest was maintaining power,” said Quentin Turner who serves as the program director of the nonpartisan group Common Cause. “By allowing everyday Michigan voters to have a say in the redistricting process we the people get to choose our representatives.”
The commission will begin reviewing all the information from public comments this week as the group begins the next phase in their process; beginning to draw the maps.
“We have changed our meetings from one hour per week to four hours per week so we have the time as a commission we need to learn together and discuss prior to the mapping process,” said MICRC Executive Director Suann Hammersmith.
The commission is working to meet a quickly approaching deadline and a few pieces still need to fall into place before their job is done. Before actually drawing new district lines commissioners must review Census data which won’t be released from the federal government until mid-September.
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The deadline to have maps completed is November 1, 2021. There is an effort to push that deadline back to January of 2022 and give the commissioners more time to complete their work. However, a decision has yet to be made on the issue.
The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the matter on June 21 and the commission has asked for an answer by August.
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