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Study questions whether Michigan's newly proposed political maps will adequately represent Black voters

michigan proposed congressional maps
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
One of the Congressional district maps proposed by Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is pictured here. The commission is hosting public hearings in October 2021 to hear feedback on its proposals.

Will maps newly proposed political maps adequately represent Black voters?

That's not clear, according to an analysis from Michigan State University's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research,

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, racial minorities need to have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Some advocates are concerned that the congressional boundaries advanced by Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission lack majority Black districts. Instead, the maps appear to maximize the number of districts that are more than 35% African American.

Jon Eguia, a political science and economics professor, led MSU's study. He says limited data made it difficult to assess whether Black Michiganders will be able to elect their preferred candidates.

“We're not very sure," he said. "Because we don't have good primary data, we don't have a lot of confidence in our estimates as to what would happen in a competitive primary.”

MSU's analysis analysis also found that more of the proposed districts are likely to favor Republicans.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean commissioners had a partisan intent when drawing the maps, Eguia said. He noted that the state’s Democratic population tends to be clustered more densely around cities.

Because of the distribution of voters, the Democrats end up wasting at lot of votes around Detroit and the southeast because they win by a landslide," he said.

The redistricting commission is hosting public hearings to gather input on its latest drafts. One session will take place Thursday from 1 to 8 p.m. at the Lansing Center.

Under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018, qualified Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated citizens are randomly selected to serve on Michigan's redistricting commission. The commissioners are set to approve final congressional, state House and state Senate maps by the end of this year.

MSU researchers are analyzing Michigan's redistricting process as part of a two-year, $250,000 grant from The Joyce Foundation, according to a news release. They're also sharing resources with the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

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