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In The Public Interest: Redrawing Michigan's Congressional And Legislative Districts

May 20, 2019

Sue Smith of the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

This week on "In the Public Interest," 89.1 WEMU's Lisa Barry speaks with the immediate past president of League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, Sue Smith, about the process of redrawing Michigan's voting districts following the passage last fall of Proposal 2.


Remind us – What is Proposal 2?

Approved by voters last November, Prop 2 amended the Michigan Constitution to provide for a Citizens Redistricting Commission that will re-draw the maps for Michigan’s Legislative and Congressional Districts following the 2020 census.  Criteria for drawing the maps were outlined in the proposal.  The goal is to have districts that do not favor one party or candidate.

When will Proposal 2 take effect?

  • District lines are drawn every 10 years after the census is completed, so new district lines will be drawn in 2021, after the upcoming 2020 census is complete
  • This is one of the reasons the census is so important. 
  • The League is working hard to inform everyone about why we need an accurate and complete census count.

How have district maps been drawn up to now?

  • The state Legislature has been drawing the maps with the result that the political party controlling the legislature has been able to create maps favoring their party and candidates. 
  • On April 25, 2019, a three judge panel in the federal district court ruled that the maps drawn by Michigan’s Republicans, adopted by the state Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2011, are unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution.  The Court has ordered that new maps be drawn by the state Legislature and Governor and for the maps to be submitted to the Court by August 1, 2019.  The court has also ordered special elections, based on the new maps, be held in 34 districts in 2020.

How is Prop. 2 being implemented?

Michigan Secretary of State is responsible for establishing the Citizens Redistricting Commission and providing administrative support once formed.

Who will be on the commission?

  • 13 Michigan registered voters: four who self-identify as Democrats, four who self-identify as Republicans and five who self-identify as unaffiliated with either of those political parties.
  • Members will be randomly selected thru an application process
  • Any Michigan registered voter is eligible to apply to serve with a few key exceptions
    • Cannot be a partisan political officeholder or candidate
    • Can’t be the employee or close relative of same
    • Can’t be a registered lobbyist

How can I apply to be on the commission?

  • SOS Jocelyn Benson has issued a “Citizens Guide” explaining the process, available at RedistrictingMichigan.org.
  • Online application will be available in late 2019 at www.RedistrictingMichigan.org
  • In addition, applications will be mailed to 10,000 randomly selected registered Michigan voters in late 2019
  • Application period runs from late 2019 to May 31, 2020
  • Sign up to receive notice when applications are available here.

How will commissioners be selected?

  • Following closure of the application period, the Secretary of State’s office will randomly narrow the pool to 200 applicants.
  • Pool will have 60 who self-identify as Republican, 60 as Democrat, and 80 as unaffiliated with either of these parties
  • After pool is formed, the minority and majority leaders in the Michigan Senate and House will have the opportunity to remove up to 20 applicants from the pool
  • From the remaining pool, the Secretary of State’s Office will randomly select four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independents to serve
  • Selection will be completed by Sept 1, 2020

What will be involved in serving on the commission?

  • Begin meeting by Oct 15, 2020
  • Deadline to adopt a redistricting plan is Nov 1, 2021
  • At least 10 public hearings around the state before drafting any plan
  • Publish proposed plan(s) and any supporting data and materials supporting
  • More public hearings to allow citizen input on proposed plans
  • Open meetings with advance notice of meetings and records kept
  • They can hire statisticians and other nonpartisan experts to help advise them, if they’d like.

Are there criteria the commission must follow?

  • Weighted by priority they are:
  1. Have equal population and comply with the Voting Rights Act.
  2. Be geographically contiguous.
  3. Reflect the state’s diversity and “communities of interest.”
  4. Not give a disproportionate advantage to any political party.
  5. Not favor or disfavor an incumbent.
  6. Reflect county, city and township boundaries.
  7. Be compact.

Will commissioners be paid and how will the commission be funded?

  • Each commissioner will receive compensation equal to at least 25% of the governor’s salary (gov. salary was $159,000 in 2018 so at least $39,750 per person or just over $500,000 for 13 ).
  • Legislature must appropriate funding for the commission
  • The funding would continue every year the commission is actively operating (so, for example, it might take a year to draw and approve maps but several more to defend them in court.)
  • Commissioners must report expenditures, undergo an annual audit and return any unused money at the end of the year.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu