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Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to begin voting on new legislative maps

Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission

The first iteration of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was bound to have some hiccups. It’s difficult enough redrawing heavily gerrymandered state legislative districts, but then bad advice by the commission’s legal team led to a 90-minute closed door session and a lawsuit taken to the Michigan Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the state’s new redistricting commission will start the process of voting on maps for the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

The commission was designed to draw fair maps after the ones drawn a decade ago by the GOP-led Legislature heavily favored Republicans.

Detroit Free Press reporter Clara Hendrickson, who has been covering the commission, says most of the proposed maps still favor conservatives but it’s not like the current gerrymander.

“Compared to the maps currently in place, it’s a significant reduction in the Republican advantage and how the maps today favor Republicans across the state.”
— Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press

“Compared to the maps currently in place, it’s a significant reduction in the Republican advantage and how the maps today favor Republicans across the state,” she says.

Hendrickson says — like many other states — Michigan is difficult to draw balanced maps since Democratic voters tend to be clustered together in densely populated areas.

Hendrickson says the commission seems to know it’s in a bind.

“The question is whether to sort of break up those Democratic voters to create more Democratic seats, but in doing so are you breaking apart communities and the commission has been sort of struggling with those competing demands.”

Between a late start due to delayed census data and a closed-door session that had both the state Legislature and Michigan Supreme Court crying foul, the commission has set itself up for a potential legal battle over the legitimacy of the maps.

Hendrickson says those who sue the commission should be careful about what they wish for.

“Whenever someone sues a redistricting authority, they’re opening up the possibility that the maps could change in ways that they don’t like and so they have to ask themselves the question: Is it better to live with the devil we know or the devil we don’t?”

The commission will go through a series of votes to decide on congressional and state House and Senate maps. If a consensus somehow cannot be reached, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will pick them at random.

Lawmakers and activists in Detroit signaled they would sue if the commission if it approved maps that diluted the voting power of Black people and failed to create enough majority-minority districts.

Russ McNamara is a reporter and host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. McNamara has been working in radio since he was 17 - and in news since 2012. He also worked as play-by-play announcer for Wayne State University basketball for seven years. Born in the Upper Peninsula, McNamara is a lifelong Michigander. He is a 2002 graduate of Central Michigan University’s Broadcast and Cinematic Arts Program.