The independent commission tasked with drawing Michigan’s political maps without legislative input for the first time will soon embark on a statewide tour of public hearings to take suggestions from Michigan residents.
The commission is also officially taking map suggestions through a new online comment portal.
Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission — a group of five independents, four Republicans and four Democrats randomly selected from a pool of thousands of applicants — is constitutionally obligated to redraw the state’s Congressional, state House and state Senate political district maps based on the latest U.S. Census data and a myriad of other criteria, including communities of interest.
The group will kick off the first of 16 in-person hearings to take public input at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Jackson’s American 1 Event Center.
An online public comment portal where people can leave comments and submit their proposed maps for state legislative and Congressional political districts also went live this week, and commissioners were briefed on its operations during a Thursday meeting.
Members of the commission have already been meeting virtually for months to work out the logistics of the independent redistricting process. Through July 1, commissioners will be traveling to conference and event centers throughout the state on Tuesdays and Thursdays to host constitutionally mandated public hearings on what Michigan residents want their political maps to look like.
The hearings will take place 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Locations include:
- May 11: Jackson – American 1 Event Center, 128 W. Ganson St.
- May 13: Kalamazoo – Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Dr.
- May 18: Marquette – The Northern Center at Northern Michigan University, 1402 Presque Isle Ave.
- May 20: Gaylord – Treetop Resorts, 3962 Wilkinson Rd.
- May 25: Midland – Great Hall Banquet & Convention Center, 5121 Bay City Rd.
- May 27: Lansing – Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave.
- June 1: Flint – Dort Financial Center, 3501 Lapeer Rd.
- June 3: Dearborn – Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave.
- June 8: Novi – Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave.
- June 10: Pontiac – Centerpoint Marriott, 3555 Centerpoint Pkwy.
- June 15: Detroit – The Village Dome at Fellowship Chapel, 7707 W. Outer Dr. June 17 Detroit – TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall), 1 Washington Blvd.
- June 22: Port Huron – Blue Water Convention Center, 800 Harker St.
- June 24: Warren – MRCC Banquet Center, 23401 Mound Rd.
- June 29: Muskegon – VanDyke Mortgage Convention Center, 939 Third St.
- July 1: Grand Rapids – DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave NW
View a map of the meeting locations below:
Can’t see the map? Click here.
Members of the Michigan Republican Party, as well as some of the initial public commenters in the online portal, have expressed concern that the portal only requires a name and email address to submit a comment or propose a map, meaning in theory someone from out-of-state could weigh in.
In a social media post, Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock urged people to contact the commission and ask that commenters be required to disclose their full name and address to prevent “coastal elite liberals” from having the same say in the process as Michigan citizens.
Edward Woods III, the commission’s communications and outreach director, said the commission will be taking a “wait and see approach” and monitor the portal to ensure people responding, regardless of location, have ties to Michigan. But he noted the commission is a public body, meaning limiting public comment in any fashion could be cause for concern.
“We’re going to go back and take a look at it and make sure that we do all that we can to ensure that the integrity of the information relates to Michigan,” he said. “But we just can’t do a blanket statement and just assume that because someone’s communicating to the commission that they’re not from Michigan.”
The current redistricting process is Michigan’s first with an independent commission handling the redrawing of state House, Senate and congressional districts. Redistricting is done once every 10 years to reflect population shifts and other changes to a district’s makeup.
The commission was assembled as a result of a November 2018 ballot proposal, Proposal 2 which passed with support from 61% of voters. Redistricting was previously handled by the Michigan Legislature and approved by the governor, which, Proposal 2 supporters pointed out, allowed politicians to set their own district lines.
Apportionment figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month indicate Michigan will lose a Congressional seat in the next redistricting process, dropping from 14 to 13 seats overall.
The state has steadily lost seats in the U.S. House over the last half-century, dropping from 19 representatives to 13 representatives. Michigan’s population grew by 2% since the last count in 2010, but the state’s rate of growth lagged behind most of the country.
The commission is also facing a truncated timeline on the map-drawing process due to a delay in the release of full U.S. Census data.
Under the constitutional amendment, the commission has until Nov. 1 to draw the maps — but the U.S. Census Bureau, citing pandemic-related delays, announced in February that redistricting data won’t be made available to states for months, promising the data by Sept. 30, 2021. That’s after the date commissioners need to have proposed maps available for public comment under the constitutional amendment, which is Sept. 17.
Commissioners are currently petitioning state courts for additional time to draw the maps due to the late census data.