The 13 people in charge of drawing Michigan’s political maps were in Grand Traverse County Thursday, laying down the first lines.
The Michigan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission was formed in 2018 to draw Michigan’s political districts fairly and by the voice of the people, not politicians.
“An open and transparent process,” said Sue Hammersmith, executive director of the commission.
For the first time ever, Michigan’s political boundaries will be drawn by the people. After holding public comment meetings all summer, the preliminary lines are being set but the commission is still looking for input.
“It’s incredibly important that people get engaged because for the first time ever they have a voice,” said Hammersmith.
This month, the 13-person commission just received a new set of US Census data that allows them to piece together fair districts, based on population and other demographics.
“The population has grown significantly on the west side of the state of Michigan so the voting districts will have to expand and contract accordingly to population,” said Hammersmith, “That’s the first criteria in the Constitution.”
The maps in southern Michigan, where complaints of gerrymandering have lasted for decades, will change drastically. Up North? Not as much.
“To expect to see something significantly different than that? You won’t,” said Steven Lett, commissioner from Interlochen.
Rural districts cover large areas and will shift slightly.
“We expect to be able to finish everything by the end of this year,” said Lett, “Which will be past our deadline but we’re doing it as fast as we can.”
COVID-19 delayed the Census, which now delayed this process. The maps must be done soon, with a major election 14 months away.
“People who will be running for office need to know where their district is going to be,” said Lett.
Any Michigander can voice their opinion, through Zoom, in-person or by email and there is still time before the lines get set for another decade.
“In October we will go out again for another eight public hearings,” said Hammersmith, “After there are some draft maps for people to react to.”