The redistribution panel puts forward 10 cards in a “chaotic” process at public hearings

The Michigan Redistribution Panel has brought forward its first 10 draft proposed maps for the state’s future voting districts, giving an increasingly critical audience a glimpse of the districts that could become final in the coming weeks.

Monday’s vote marked the end of more than seven weeks of map-drawing by the 13-member Citizens Commission – a process that sparked intense public scrutiny, frustration with mapping technology, procedural delays and a crash course in drawing maps that balance population, race, and partisan equity.

The 10 maps included three proposed State House district plans, three State Senate district maps, and four congressional district maps that were co-developed during committee meetings.

Over the next two days, Commissioners will put the finishing touches on any individual cards they wish to come up with for the public hearing phase, meaning each of the three categories could increase by 13 individual cards on offer.

For readers: Click the arrow icon at the top left of the map to select the proposed map you want to view.

All draft maps – the 10 collaborative maps and any additional individual commissioner submissions – go on to public hearings from October 20 through the end of October.

At the beginning of November, the commission will hold a few meetings to make the necessary adjustments after hearing the comments during the public hearings. The committee will vote on the final draft cards on November 5 and these will be posted for a 45-day public comment period on November 14, ending with a final vote on December 30 on a voting card each for the House of State, State Senate and Congress.

If the commission has to make any changes during that 45-day window, the 45-day clock for public comments will restart – possibly delaying the finalization of maps in 2022.

The committee’s scrutiny has gradually intensified from Democrats, Republicans and others as members move closer to moving maps through the process of public hearing and public comment. Criticism and questioning weighed heavily on individuals specifically chosen for their lack of experience in politics and government in general.

“I think chaotic is a good way to describe it,” said Tony Daunt, Republican and executive director of the constituency watch group FAIR Maps. “They’ve been so everywhere with what they’re working on, what their schedule looks like, when they have public hearings.”

With days of public hearings, map changes and votes to come, it’s still unclear what the commissioners’ end products will look like, said Adrian Hemond, Democrat and CEO of consulting firm Grassroots Midwest in Lansing.

“The scariest part is, it’s still too early to tell, and it’s already October,” Hemond said.

10 collaborative cards

The 10 collaborative cards put forward on Monday, each dubbed after a tree to facilitate public identification, came after weeks of deliberation.

Committee members were not only to ensure that the 110 House Districts, 38 Senate Districts and 13 Congressional Districts had equal populations, but they also had to attempt to balance racial representation, communities of interests and partisan equity across borders.

This round of redistribution marks the first time that Michigan’s electoral districts will be redesigned by an independent Citizen Redistribution Commission. In the past, the 10-year reshuffle was carried out by the majority political party, but a voting committee called Voters Not Politicians successfully gained voter approval for a voting initiative in 2018 that put accountability in the hands of citizens. independent in order to avoid gerrymandered cards. which favored one part over another.

In terms of population, Michigan’s House districts in this redistribution cycle may each contain up to 91,612 people with a deviation range of plus or minus 5%. Michigan Senate districts can contain up to 265,193 people, each with the same 5% deviation range.

Districts of Congress need to be more specific – with a cap of 775,179 people with a federal deviation range of plus or minus 0.5%.

According to the three States Senate maps put forward on Monday, officials estimated that there would be 19 Democratic and 19 Republican seats in a plan, the “Elm” proposal, and a 20-18 split in favor of Democrats in the United States. two others, Cherry and Spruce. Republicans currently hold a 22-16 majority.

According to the maps proposed by State House, the Peach plan would produce an expected split of 55-55, the Oak a 56-54 split in favor of the Democrats, and the Pine proposal a 56-54 in favor of the Republicans. The GOP now has a 58-52 advantage.

Democrats typically receive a majority of the vote for all districts in the state combined, but Republicans have managed to retain their majority in the state House and Senate.

All of the district maps proposed by Congress – Apple, Cedar, Maple and Juniper – would produce a slight Democratic majority of 7 to 6, according to estimates produced by the commission’s consultants. There is currently a 7-7 division, but Michigan is losing a district due to population growth in other states.

These maps will advance through the public hearing period, along with any other individual Commissioner’s submissions, for a series of five hearings. The length of this public hearing phase – originally scheduled to include nine public hearing dates – was among decisions criticized by groups who argued the public should be given more time to examine the cards.

“One of the challenges of this process is just the simple fact that this last part of the card design and weighting on the cards has just been so restricted,” said Branden Snyder, executive director of the progressive group Detroit Action.

He spoke alongside leaders of the state’s NAACP and the League of Voters at a press conference on Monday that urged commissioners to consider the ballot promotion cards and comments from rights groups. to vote.

Yvonne White, president of the Michigan NAACP, added: “If they don’t listen to the comments made during the second round of hearings and until the second round of cards is approved, then they are not doing their best. job.”

Balance map priorities

Three Qualifications Commissioners must consider – compliance with the Voting Rights Act, communities of interest and partisan fairness – caused the group the most headache, as metrics can be loosely defined and, sometimes, in opposition to each other.

For example, in Detroit, where the voting population is predominantly black, commissioners attempted to “unpack” the African-American population so that it was not confined to a few specific districts.

In 2019, a federal judicial panel found that the state’s current maps were gerrymandered at “historic proportions” and that the current limits diluted the weight of Democratic voters by “wrapping or breaking them” in some districts.

Cracking is the process of dispersing a party’s supporters across districts so that their votes count less and are usually cast for the losing candidates. And packaging is a process in which map designers concentrate party supporters in certain limited districts so that their influence is contained and does not spill out beyond those areas.

But some Detroit leaders are already complaining that this reform commission has gone too far in an attempt to unpack Detroit-area districts.

Senator Adam Hollier, a black Democratic lawmaker from Detroit, plans to hold a press conference on Tuesday to urge changes to the maps. Where there are currently 17 black-majority districts in Michigan across the 161 districts of the State House, State Senate, and Congress, there are none in the proposed new maps. This means that fewer black lawmakers are more likely to pass the primaries.

“They have drawn the city of Detroit to districts that Detroiters won’t win and blacks won’t win because the majority of the electoral base is in suburban communities, especially in the primaries where Democratic races are decided. “Hollier said in a statement.

The Detroit lawmaker wants to mobilize lawmakers, voters and community leaders to urge commissioners to redraw the maps of the Detroit area.

“The commission did a very good job responding to comments from people who testify,” Hollier said. “Now the Detroiters have to stand up.”

Hollier’s concerns are expected to continue to surface in the coming days as the public demands a balance between keeping communities together and avoiding packing in certain districts, said Hemond, the Democratic consultant.

“I don’t think it’s going to be just Detroit,” Hemond said. “There is this tension between creating competitive neighborhoods and keeping cities whole.”

Others, including White with the NAACP and Daunt with FAIR Maps, noted that the commission struggled to balance communities of interest and partisan fairness.

“They really seem to ignore the community of interest issue, which is ranked # 3 in terms of priority, and they kind of dump it in favor of this kind of nebulous idea of ​​partisan fairness,” Daunt said. , arguing that the consequence is winding district lines that seek out diverse populations to balance the number of votes.

“They are creating districts that are really starting to look silly and in many ways mimic the districts that voters and not politicians have used so effectively to pass this proposal in 2018,” he said.

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Public hearings

October 20, TCF Center, Detroit

October 21, Lansing Center, Lansing

October 22, Location TBD, Grand Rapids

October 25, Treetops Resort, Gaylord

October 26, Dort Center, Flint

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