Featured photo: MICRC Communications and Outreach Director Edward Woods III speaks at the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission Press Event
Written by Tanya Terry
The Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission (MICRC) recently adopted a plan for Michigan’s Congressional, Senate and House Districts.
In 2018, voters in Michigan by more than 61% said they wanted voters, citizens, Michigan residents to draw the maps, and not politicians so that they could have fair maps and prevent gerrymandering. This process started well over a year ago. There were also more than 25,000 comments from members of the public from across the state through the MICRC’s outreach and public engagement efforts.
For the first time in the state, an independent commission approved a Michigan Congressional map, a Michigan State Senate map and a Michigan State House map. The maps approved were the Chestnut for the Michigan Congressional, the Linden for the Michigan Senate and Hickory for the Michigan House.
The commission took on a difficult task,” said Athena McKay, executive director for Flint Innovative Solutions (FIS.)
“Given the census data delay and COVID, I believe they heeded community voice in their final decisions,” McKay added. “They adopted the Chestnut, Linden and Hickory maps. These maps align with the Flint community suggestions. I was happy to report progress to community after our collective public comments, keeping Flint whole! Through additional modifications could have been made if time allowed, I believe Greater Flint will be afforded representation that reflects our community. We move forward toward voter registration and election turn outs like never before. This generation’s voice will not be stifled.”
Commissioner M.C. Rothhorn (D) said as a citizen, to be part of the MICRC’s efforts was really an honor. He said it was hard, but it was proven possible.
“If you’re in other states, we want you to do it, too,” Rothhorn expressed.
Rothhorn said the commission’s process could be improved by including more consideration for the environment in the mapping process.
“There were suggestions from citizens that we have, in the mapping process-that we consider watersheds,” he continued.
Steven Terry Lett (N) said the commission was able to garner help through experts, map drawers and VRA attorneys.
“We got some excellent advice on how to proceed,” he continued. “We listened to California. We listened to Arizona, who had been through this process. We developed our own process.”
Lett said the maps were “not perfect,” but the commission worked really hard and listened to the public’s comments.
“Certainly the process that will be used in the process 10 years from now, they’ll have our process that we used-and I think they can say ‘well, this maybe didn’t work so well…but this really worked well..’ (And) they can build upon that.”
Cynthia Orton (R) said the commission’s work to adopt the maps was “a big, daunting task.”
“But, we had help, and we studied and we learned-and we went out into the state of Michigan (and) met with so many citizens, read so much input from those citizens and came up with maps that we could all agree on,” Orton stated.
Brittni Kellom (D) pointed out the commissioners “hung in there and listened to each other the best they could despite having different backgrounds and very different lived histories.”
“We saw some of that play out in the maps that we ended up with and we voted on, and that above all is a testament to what true democracy looks like,” Kellom continued.
Kellom said she felt like, on a personal level, the commission just finished synthesizing the math and data part.
“The whole engagement, which is the other part of this process-that the community needed its own attention…especially when we think about communities like Flint, Detroit, Saginaw-even elsewhere-the U.P….We had our Indigenous folks come out. So, those are the things I wish could have been focused more on.”