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Redistricting commission asks for public comment after approving draft maps

black and white map of michigan, divided into a grid with dots representing population density
Courtesy
/
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
About 10 draft maps are up for public comment detailing new state House, Senate and congressional districts.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission approved draft maps of political districts this week.

Now, the public will be able to weigh in at a series of hearings later this month on what commissioners have proposed.

But it’s clear that whatever maps the commission ends up settling on will impact races for the state House, Senate and congressional seats.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is a reporter with Bridge Michigan covering the commission. He broke down the proposed maps with WKAR's Sophia Saliby.

Interview Highlights

On How Congressional Races Could Be Impacted By The New Maps

We know that Michigan is losing one congressional seat, so, we're going from 14 to 13. So, right there automatically, there's going to be a party that's going to have a majority. Now, what we've experienced or what we've seen is that the congressional delegation, those districts will become more competitive. And we've also seen that it's likely that some incumbents will have to, like probably move residences into another district. Because the way the commission drew districts, they would lump a couple of them in the same side [or] in the same area. So, that's going to be super interesting.

On How Incumbent Politicians Are Reacting To The Proposed Maps

In the past, these legislators would probably know by now where they were going to run or how their districts were going to look like because they were the ones who drew the lines. This time around, it's an independent commission that is not having conversations with the legislators [and] that's actually not paying attention to whether an incumbent lives here or if they have to protect an incumbent. So, it's a little different. And I think legislators, as a whole, they don't know how to navigate this situation, because it's not them, it's an independent commission.

On How This Round Of Public Comment Will Impact The Rest Of The Map-Drawing Process

The idea is that they're going to gather input from the public on these maps. This is when we're probably going to hear a lot of groups coming forward and asking the commission to redraw their lines or make an adjustment here or there. And then the commission will go back after those two weeks, they will start meeting up again [and] they will start adjusting lines according to what they think. But they don't have a lot of time. That's the key here, Sophia, is that they have until November 5, because on November 5 they're going to cast another vote on approving, like, proposed maps.

Interview Transcript

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

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission approved draft maps of political districts this week.

Now, the public will be able to weigh in at a series of hearings later this month on what commissioners have proposed.

But it’s clear that whatever maps the commission ends up settling on will impact races for the state House, Senate and congressional seats.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is a reporter with Bridge Michigan covering the commission. Thank you for joining me.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán: Thank you for having me, Sophia.

Saliby: These maps commissioners voted on this week are not final, that's right?

Martínez-Beltrán: Right. Yeah, they are not final. There's a lot of room for improvement if you ask those watching the procedures. What the commission did, though, is that they approved 10 maps in total.

The idea is that they're gonna bring these 10 plans plus a couple of other individual maps into the second round of public hearings, which is scheduled to start next week.

So, it's four congressional draft plans, three Senate plans and three House plans. And the idea is that they're gonna bring these 10 plans plus a couple of other individual maps into the second round of public hearings, which is scheduled to start next week.

Saliby: Your team at Bridge did an analysis of all 10 of these maps based on previous elections, looking at how they could each impact the makeup of the state legislature. What did you find overall?

Martínez-Beltrán: Well, there's a couple of things that we found that were super interesting. I mean, big picture is that this redistricting cycle would drastically shake up what we've seen in the Michigan legislature and in the congressional delegation.

So, if we start with the congressional delegation, for example, we know that Michigan is losing one congressional seat, so, we're going from 14 to 13 [seats]. So, right there, automatically, there's going to be a party that's going to have a majority. Now, what we've experienced or what we've seen is that the congressional delegation, those districts will become more competitive.

I mean, big picture is that this redistricting cycle would drastically shake up what we've seen in the Michigan legislature and in the congressional delegation.

And we've also seen that it's likely that some incumbents will have to like, probably move residences into another district. Because the way the commission drew districts, they would lump a couple of them in the same side [or] in the same area. So, that's going to be super interesting.

In terms of the Senate and the House, the Senate seems like it could be a toss up. So, according to like their draft maps, one draft map, for example, shows that the Senate will be evenly split. So, 19 seats for the Republican Party, 19 seats for the Democratic party. And then you have the other two draft maps, which show that one party would have or the other party would have an advantage of two seats.

And then when we talk about the House, it still looks like Republicans will have an edge in the lower chamber. However, Democrats have seen some stuff that could definitely make them feel a little hopeful about the future for them in the House.

Saliby: You mentioned incumbents. You know, next year is midterm elections. How are these politicians kind of thinking about running when they don't even know where they're going to be running next year?

Martínez-Beltrán: That's a great question. And I think that's why now we are hearing from legislators being a little bit more involved and criticizing the commission a little bit more, because I think they're starting to get a little nervous based on the draft maps, in terms of where are they going to run or how their district is going to look like. They are having these conversations.

These legislators would probably know by now where they were going to run or how their districts were going to look like because they were the ones who drew the lines. This time around, it's an independent commission.

Now, the thing that's different is that in the past, these legislators would probably know by now where they were going to run or how their districts were going to look like because they were the ones who drew the lines.

This time around, it's an independent commission that is not having conversations with the legislators [and] that's actually not paying attention to whether an incumbent lives here or if they have to protect an incumbent.

So, it's a little different. And I think legislators, as a whole, they don't know how to navigate this situation, because it's not them, it's an independent commission that, you know, has been very insistent that they're not going to let any power influence their decisions.

Saliby: Could the commissioners literally like go back to the drawing board at this point, or are these maps kind of what we're probably going to see when they're finalized?

Martínez-Beltrán: So, we are expecting them to go back to the drawing board after the second round of public hearings. The second round of public hearings, like I mentioned, it's supposed to start on October 20 in Detroit at the TCF Center, and then the commission will have other locations for the next two weeks, including Lansing and other areas in the state.

And then the idea is that they're going to gather input from the public on these maps. This is when we're probably going to hear a lot of groups coming forward and asking the commission to redraw their lines or make an adjustment here or there.

And then the commission will go back after those two weeks, they will start meeting up again [and] they will start adjusting lines according to what they think. But they don't have a lot of time. That's the key here, Sophia, is that they have until November 5, because on November 5 they're going to cast another vote on approving, like, proposed maps.

There's like a time crunch here, so the adjustments that we're expecting to come after the second round of public hearings are probably going to be minimal because they're really trying to get the ball rolling.

And then they're going to open it up for a 45 day public hearing period before voting on the final maps on December 30. So, there's like a time crunch here, so the adjustments that we're expecting to come after the second round of public hearings are probably going to be minimal because they're really trying to get the ball rolling.

Saliby: Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports on the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for Bridge Michigan. Thank you for joining me.

Martínez-Beltrán: Thank you, Sophia. I appreciate you.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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