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Politics

Midland residents urge redistricting commission to consider local communities

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Brett Dahlberg
/
WCMU News

The commission that will redraw Michigan’s election districts heard from people in Midland on Tuesday.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is in charge of drawing electoral districts to reflect the results of last year’s census.

In the past, the maps were made by state legislators, but critics said that allowed lawmakers to choose their voters, instead of the voters choosing their representatives.

Jill Haver-Crissman, a retired veterinarian from Midland, was one of those critics. She campaigned for the law that made the new commission, and she was at the redistricting meeting in Midland.

“I am seeing the commission in real life. I am so excited,” Haver Crissman said.

The legislation requires the panel to be politically neutral. Haver-Crissman said that by removing politicians from the process, the commission can focus on drawing districts that align with communities.

Midland County, where she lives, should not be split across multiple districts like it is now, she said.

The districts the commission draws need to have equal populations, be compact and contiguous, and reflect what the state calls “communities of interest” -- places that share cultural or historical characteristics or economic interests.

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Credit Brett Dahlberg / WCMU News
People wait to offer public comments to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in Midland on Tuesday.

More than 75 people signed up to speak at the Tuesday meeting. Many of them urged the commission to change the maps. They cited a range of potential dividing lines that separate communities, including counties, religious congregations, school districts and watersheds.

Others, like Dennis Quehl, told the panel they want the maps to stay the same.

Quehl said people in the state’s current district already have shared interests.

“What the constituents believe, stand for and what their interests are is really cohesive.”

The commission has until November to propose new maps, but it plans to create its first drafts in August.

There are 11 more meetings scheduled around the state before then. "This process is transparent," said the commission's Executive Director Jill Hammersmith. "Not a single line will be drawn on a map until we've completed the public comments."

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