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Residents debate shape of newly proposed mid-Michigan political districts

Sarah Lehr / WKAR News
Members of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission hear feedback from the public during a public hearing at the Lansing Center on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.

Debates over fairness are raging as a citizen-led panel hears feedback on newly proposed political maps.

A citizen-led commission is creating the maps under a process approved by voters in 2018. Before that, the political party in power statewide was able to dominate the drawing of districts.

DeWitt Township resident Melany Mack helped campaign to bring redistricting reform to the ballot. But she says recently proposed state House boundaries are unfair.

“In the Greater Lansing area, the most Democratic parts of Eaton county — Delta Township and parts of the city of Lansing — are packed into a district with Ingham County," she said during a public hearing Thursday at the Lansing Center.

Ingham County leans liberal and some commenters worried that packing blue voters into one district will hurt Democrats statewide. The commission is set to approve final state House, state Senate and congressional maps by the end of this year.

Commissioners must draw the maps using seven criteria, which are ranked in order of importance.

Partisan fairness is listed as the fourth most important consideration, after compliance with the Voting Rights Act and keeping districts contiguous.

They're also supposed to prioritize keeping together so-called communities of interest. Those are areas that share historical, cultural and geographic interests.

But Susan Anderson told commissioners proposed state Senate boundaries will end up "splitting a small Hispanic community" in north Lansing.

In particular, she notes that, under certain proposals, the Cristo Rey Community Center, which offers services in Spanish, is in a district with Clinton County instead of the rest of Lansing.

"I urge you to put that back," she said.