Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts will soon be redrawn by an independent commission for the first time — and members of that commission are seeking specific input from residents to inform how they map new political boundaries.
The commission is brand new, and the lines they ultimately come up with have major implications for future political races at state and federal levels.
Michigan is losing a congressional seat this redistricting cycle, meaning the political makeup of many existing seats could change drastically. And a redrawing of state House and Senate districts could have implications for which party ultimately controls the state Legislature.
Public input on the maps is baked into the process — at this stage, commissioners are hearing from residents in 16 public hearings scheduled through July 1. The commission’s goal is to get at least 10,000 in-person and virtual comments.
In addition to more traditional means of public comment, the commission is encouraging residents to draw their own preferred district maps and communities of interest that should be considered in the process via an online public comment portal.
Many already have. Some have focused on specific regions or communities, while others have tried their hand at mapping out the entire state.
Want to join them? Below are some tips on how to get started.
1) Decide what district(s) you want to draw
Michigan’s independent redistricting commission — made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents from around the state — are tasked with drawing lines for the state’s congressional, state House and state Senate districts.
Michigan has 110 state House seats and 38 state Senate seats that are divvied up evenly by population every 10 years based on updated U.S. Census data.
Michigan currently has 14 Congressional seats, although the state will lose a U.S. House seat in the next reapportionment process due to lagging population growth compared to other states.
For reference on what the current district lines look like, see the maps below:
Congressional (Click here for mobile version)
State House (Click here for mobile version)
State Senate (Click here for mobile version)
2) Identify potential communities of interest
Once the commission takes public comment on the maps and gets full results from the 2020 census, they will work on redrawing maps, and are required to follow a specific series of criteria:
- Complying with federal requirements, including making each district an equal population size.
- Making districts geographically contiguous.
- Keeping communities of interest together.
- Not favoring any political party or candidate for office.
- Considering county, city and township lines.
- Making the districts reasonably compact.
Because communities of interest are high up on the commissioners’ list to consider and are loosely defined, public input on what communities should be included in the same political districts is especially critical for commissioners to consider.
In public comments submitted to the commission so far, communities of color, church groups, adjacent counties, people working in specific industries, school districts, rural regions, neighboring cities and more have been proposed as possible communities of interest for the committee to consider.
The University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, which built a database of possible communities of interest available upon request, suggests communities of interest include populations sharing cultural or historical characteristics, economic interests or bonds through policy issues that would be affected by legislation.
The center offers the following examples as possible communities of interest: Historical communities; economic communities; racial communities; ethnic communities; cultural communities; religious communities; immigrant communities; language communities; geographic communities; neighborhoods; economic opportunity zones; tourism areas; school districts; outdoor recreation areas; communities defined by natural features; creative arts communities; and media markets.
3) Start drawing
You don’t need a pen and paper to draw proposed maps of political districts or communities of interest for the commission.
The state’s public comment portal connects people directly to the website Districtr, which lets users create their own district and communities of interest maps with available demographic data, including race, partisan lean and voting-age population.
Users are given the ideal population size of the district, depending on whether they’re drawing House, Senate or Congressional districts, and can choose to draw as few or as many proposed districts as they want in their map, which are color-coded to delineate district boundaries.
The site can also show various boundary lines on the map that could factor into redistricting, such as county lines, tribal governments and school districts.
A similar tool is available to map out proposed communities of interest, although communities of interest are not limited by specific population size and, unlike proposed political districts, can overlap with other communities of interest.
Other similar websites offering free options for making political district maps include Representable, DistrictBuilder and Dave’s Redistricting. Maps drawn on any of those sites can also be uploaded into the public comment portal.
Watch the commission’s demonstration video on how to use Districtr below:
4) Upload the maps
Once a map is finished, users are encouraged to submit their proposals to the commission’s public comment portal, where all submissions are displayed as separate icons on the website.
There is an option to create tags for submitted maps and public comments to allow the proposals to be searched by a particular region or a community.
Commenters are required to submit a name and email to post a submission to the portal, although email addresses are kept confidential. People are also encouraged to share their city or county and zip code.
Other ways to weigh in
In addition to the online public comment portal, Michigan residents can show up to one of the commission’s ongoing public hearings in person or sign up to testify virtually. People who address the commission directly are also encouraged to submit their written comments and proposed maps to the online portal.
The commission is holding 16 public hearings total at this stage – the first two took place in Jackson and Kalamazoo last week. The hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
To testify virtually at the hearings, residents must sign up by noon the day of the hearing. In-person commenters have until 8 p.m. the day of the hearing to register to comment.
Public commenters will have up to two minutes to address commissioners. Those attending in person are subject to COVID-19 precautions, including mask-wearing and social distancing.
For more information, Michiganders are encouraged to check out the commission’s website or call 833-968-3729, although formal comments on the redistricting process cannot be taken over the phone.
Residents without internet access can mail their feedback to the commission at MICRC, PO Box 30318, Lansing, MI 48909.
Future hearings are listed below:
- 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
See a map of all the public hearing dates below, or click here to view it on mobile.
Read more on MLive: