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Lansing Democrat To Be Part Of Citizens' Group Redrawing Congressional District Lines

Map Of Michigan Congressional Districts
U.S. Department of the Interior
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Michigan's Congressional district lines will be redrawn before the 2022 election.

As time runs out for Michiganders to fill out their census, that data will soon be used to redraw district lines for political offices in the state.

Voters amended the state constitution in 2018 to make citizens rather than legislators responsible for drawing congressional district lines.

Nearly 10,000 Michiganders applied to be a part of that independent citizen commission. Last month, 13 people were randomly selected representing Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters. They met for the first time last week.

MC Rothhorn is a Lansing Democrat who is a part of the commission. He spoke with WKAR’s Sophia Saliby about why he wanted to participate.

Interview Highlights

On the Significance Of Regular Michiganders Deciding District Lines

The idea that the transparent process that is called for in the Constitution that, you know, gives us this mandate, we are going to do a better job than has been done in the past. It will be open and transparent, and we will deliberate in the open. It will not be a closed process.

On How He’ll Deal Will Conflict As The Commission Deliberates

I think we'll confront [arguments], you know? We'll have them; we'll deliberate. I suppose the idea of listening is something that I know that I bring to the table. I like to listen, and I think I can help us all listen better. I think that there are many good listeners on our commission too. So, I think that's part of arguing is that you have to also be able to listen and sort it out inside, take a little break, figure it out and stay at the table.

Interview Transcript

Saliby: As time runs out for Michiganders to fill out their census, that data will soon be used to redraw district lines for political offices in the state.

Voters amended the state constitution in 2018 to make citizens rather than legislators responsible for drawing congressional district lines.

Nearly 10,000 Michiganders applied to be a part of that independent citizen commission. Last month, 13 people were randomly selected representing Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.

They met for the first time last week. MC Rothhorn is a Lansing Democrat who is a part of the commission. He joins me now. Thanks for being here.

MC Rothhorn: Thanks for inviting me.

Saliby: So, why did you apply to be on the redistricting commission?

Rothhorn: That's a great question. I think, like many, I want to see a fair process.

Saliby: And what was your reaction when you found out you would be a part of it?

Rothhorn: I guess, a little bit of, "oh boy, what did I get myself into?" A mixed blessing. I'll say that I am overjoyed to be here, and it's gonna be a lot of work. I appreciate that the rest of us, the other 12 of my commissioners, have also decided to do it.

Saliby: That was my next question. You guys met for the first time last week. What are you excited about after you got your first impressions of the commission, what you're going to be doing over the next year [and] the whole process?

Rothhorn: I'm excited about learning about this process, learning just the difference between setting up a state agency and sort of having a state agency …. meaning that we will have a state agency that is independent and allow us to create an independent process. That it's not just us commissioners that are doing the work, but it's the staff that we will oversee and govern.

I'm excited about that. I'm gonna learn a lot, and, gosh, I know we all are. I do feel like there's more there, but I just I haven't unpacked it all, frankly, I'm still sort of trying to make space in the rest of my life, so I can do this work.

Saliby: This is a bipartisan commission, and of course, this comes at kind of a tense time in politics. How do you think members of the commission are going to avoid arguments?

Rothhorn: I don't know that we'll avoid them. I think we'll confront them, you know? We'll have them; we'll deliberate. I suppose the idea of listening is something that I know that I bring to the table. I like to listen, and I think I can help us all listen better.

I think that there are many good listeners on our commission too. So, I think that's part of arguing is that you have to also be able to listen and sort it out inside, take a little break, figure it out and stay at the table.

Saliby: Can you speak more to the significance of a commission like this? Why do you think it's important that regular Michiganders and not politicians redraw these lines?

Rothhorn: I suppose it's some of our colleagues from Arizona and California that helped me understand the significance of this commission.

The idea that the transparent process that is called for in the Constitution that, you know, gives us this mandate, we are going to do a better job than has been done in the past. It will be open and transparent, and we will deliberate in the open. It will not be a closed process, and there are many of us who have decided that this is what, I mean, we're doing this because we like that idea.

So I think, and again, California and Arizona, they're a little bit different. They're not the same as Michigan, but each of them sort of helped us as commissioners understand our role, because they have had that experience 10 years ago and more.

Saliby: And what are the next steps in the process for you and your other commission members?

Rothhorn: Yeah. We'll be meeting and setting up that state agency, setting up the way we will work with the staff that we have a budget to use.

Saliby: MC Rothhorn is a part of the state's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Thank you for joining me.

Rothhorn: Thank you.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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