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Redistricting Commission Deep In Process Of Redrawing Michigan's Political Maps

logo for commission that depicts an outline of the state, a pen and "Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission" in front of a sunset on a lake
Courtesy
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Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
13 people serve on the commission representing Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.

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

Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has been working for almost a year to prepare to redraw the state’s congressional districts and political maps.

Now that the group has data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the map-making process has begun.

Ben Solis is a reporter with Gongwer who’s been following the work of the commission.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke with him about what the maps look like so far.

Interview Highlights

On The Criteria The Commission Has Been Using To Draw Maps So Far

They've been solely focused on the population aspect of it. There are multiple tiers of constitutional criteria that they have to consider, and the first of which is going to look at the population based on census data. However, they are starting to build in this community of interest aspect of it.

On The Tight Deadline The Commission Is Approaching For Finishing Maps

They're moving forward as if, you know, they are going to blow this deadline. I think it's a foregone conclusion that they're going to, and the maps are going to be done by the end of the year. So yeah, it could be a situation where they do get sued eventually, and when they do get sued for whatever reason for their maps, the courts will reconsider it then.

On What It Has Been Like To Cover The Commission

I know it can be confusing sometimes and wonky, but that's how the process is. And I think it gives people a chance to really feel like these maps were drawn with their considerations involved as well too. So, everybody wins, but also, you know not everybody's gonna be happy with the final maps. So, we'll see.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has been working for almost a year to prepare to redraw the state’s congressional districts and political maps.

Now that the group has data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the map-making process has begun.

Ben Solis is a reporter with Gongwer who’s been following the work of the commission. He joins me now.

Thank you for being here.

Ben Solis: Thank you so much.

Saliby: From what I understand, we're early in this map-making process, but what kind of criteria has the commission been focusing on so far?

Solis: Yes. They've been solely focused on the population aspect of it. There are multiple tiers of constitutional criteria that they have to consider, and the first of which is going to look at the population based on census data.

However, they are starting to build in this community of interest aspect of it, which I believe, they're starting to do [Wednesday]. And they have not touched that aspect yet because they simply just wanted to look at what these maps might look like, based solely on population. But there's much more work to be done.

Saliby: How has the delay in receiving census data from the federal government impacted the commission?

They're approaching a tight deadline when it comes to getting these maps done, right?

Solis: Yes, they are, and that delay did throw them into a short bit of chaos. They were supposed to get that data in early spring, but the census data was delayed until August. And then we're going to have a larger data dump in September as well.

So that did throw the process off quite a bit; however, the way that they had baked their schedule together, they were able to do all this community of interest [and] public outreach while they were waiting on the census data, so they were working kind of in tandem while they were waiting. And as we see now, now that they have the data, they're going full force into the maps.

Saliby: And they had asked the state Supreme Court for an extension. The Supreme Court did not give them that extra time.

Do you expect them to return to that if they don't feel like they have the right maps done by by their prescribed deadlines?

Solis: It's unclear, but I believe at this point, the court's intervention in this is not going to happen until they eventually get sued.

What the court decision said was that, you know, "You are asking for a type of legal cover that doesn't quite exist yet, right? You are proposing that you're going to blow this constitutional deadline and move past that. But until you actually do that, we don't think that that's something that the courts should consider."

They're moving forward as if, you know, they are going to blow this deadline.

So, they're moving forward as if, you know, they are going to blow this deadline. I think it's a foregone conclusion that they're going to, and the maps are going to be done by the end of the year.

So yeah, it could be a situation where they do get sued eventually, and when they do get sued for whatever reason for their maps, the courts will reconsider it then.

Saliby: You mentioned public meetings. How has citizens' input, [and] regular Michiganders' thoughts on all of this, been considered when putting together these maps?

Solis: Right now, because it's based on population, not so much. But the public outreach aspect of it is the driving force behind a lot of this. They are being very deliberate and very careful in taking their public input.

They have a pretty robust online public comment tool where they can not only accept public comments but maps as well. And, you know, they did all these massive outreach meetings for many months, going from city to city, villages, even. They've held separate town hall meetings that weren't quite the same as their public outreach meetings.

RELATED: Redistricting Commission Member Says Public Comment Is Crucial To Drawing New Maps

So, they've really been getting out there and trying to get in front of people, not just to gain input, but I think to help people understand what the process is going to look like. Because right now, it's still very confusing.

Saliby: We do know from census data Michigan will be losing a seat in the House of Representatives. Do we have any idea about which current congressional district will be most impacted by the loss?

Solis: We're not quite sure because you don't really know what the congressional maps look like yet. They've been really focused on building the state legislative maps [for] the Senate and the House.

And they are, I think, very close to start building these congressional maps. So yeah, it's still very up in the air about what that might look like.

Saliby: My final question to you is what has it been like to watch this, in a way, experiment take place?

This is the first time the state has done this, and basically what this commission does this year will impact what happens a decade from now and then down on the line when it comes to redistricting in the state, right?

Solis: Certainly, and yeah, it's been fascinating to watch. This is a completely novel experience, not only for, you know, reporters like me, but also for the state and for the citizens to, you know, have an actual hand and impact on how their legislative and congressional seats are drawn. And just the newness of it makes it very fun to watch.

I think it gives people a chance to really feel like these maps were drawn with their considerations involved.

I know it can be confusing sometimes and wonky, but that's how the process is. And I think it gives people a chance to really feel like these maps were drawn with their considerations involved as well too.

So, everybody wins, but also, you know not everybody's gonna be happy with the final maps. So, we'll see.

Saliby: Ben Solis is a reporter with Gongwer covering the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Thank you for joining me.

Solis: Thank you so much for having me.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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