LANSING, MICHIGAN (WXYZ) — In 2018 voters made their voices heard. They didn’t want whatever political party was in charge drawing behind closed doors the political district maps that determined who represented them. They voted to create a non-partisan Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Citizens applied and then were randomly selected to be a part of it.
This week, that commission officially chose a new set of political district maps. They are in some cases leading to major changes for communities.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) announced that in response to the new district maps, she will be moving to a new home. She lives in Dearborn, and the city is now incorporated in a “voting rights district.”
“I think representation is very important and that weighed heavily in the decision that I made,” said Congresswoman Dingell.
She will run for reelection in the 6th district, which will include about 60% of the communities she represents already outside of Dearborn.
What is a voting rights district? It is a district that is linked to a minority community with the goal of ensuring that all are fairly represented. As the commission drew the districts it relied on experts who analyzed what percentage of different groups should be in districts to statistically give them a chance at fair representation. Commissioners say it was not an easy task.
“The data is lacking, particularly at the primary level. Because the way we drew districts, we traveled into Wayne County, Oakland County and other areas outside of Detroit and there is no primary data from previous elections,” said Rebecca Szetela, a Non-Partisan Commissioner.
“I am concerned that some of the people from the city won’t have representation from people that come from the city,” said Mark Payne, the Civic Engagement Manager for the League of Conservation Voters.
Payne says he lives in a district that includes Detroit neighborhoods with communities in Oakland County. He is especially concerned because there was a mistake in a report the commission reviewed right before approving the maps. The report mentioned how his district elected a white State Senator named Marshall Bullock in the past. State Senator Bullock is black.
“That is obviously very inaccurate and to have that level of an error in something as critical as the racially polarized voting analysis that helps inform the commissions decisions around that number one constitutional criteria is something that needs to be looked at,” said Clare Allenson, Democracy For All Director League of Conservation Voters.
While there are questions and criticisms, even critics say the process we just witnessed is better than what we had in the past.
“I want to acknowledge the important step we have taken as a state which is to take something out of a dark back room and bring it into a public forum,” said Allenson.
Doug Clark, a Republican Commissioner, says he wants the public to know that the citizens who applied and were selected for this task are all proud to be a part of something that supports transparency and democracy.
“The citizens of Michigan really responded. They gave us over 20,000 comments. We read them all. We took them all into account as we moved forward,” said Clark.
You can see your districts at the following links:
Michigan State Senate
Michigan State House