The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission met at the Michigan League Thursday to hear from community members about their concerns regarding the redistricting process in which new state and congressional district lines are being drawn.
The commission was approved in 2018 and has been working on redrawing district lines under fair and transparent guidelines over the past several months. The final maps will be voted on and adopted on Dec. 30 and will be in place until the next redistricting cycle in 2031.
In early November, the commission approved three U.S. House, three state Senate and three state House maps, which needed the majority of the members of the Commission along with two Democratic, two Republican and two Independent members to approve the final maps.
More than 70 citizens from across the state of Michigan attended the meeting in person or virtually to express their opinions on the maps that are being considered for the redistricting process. The public comment period, during which the committee will hold a variety of meetings, started on Nov. 8 and will remain open for the following 45 days.
One of the common issues that citizens expressed at the event was discontent with the current state House maps that the commission is considering.
Jewel Adams, resident of Longway County, said more than 50 districts within county lines on the state House maps should be kept within one county.
“You are trying so hard to force your definition of communities of interest that you have lost sight of actual communities,” Adams said.
Ron Emus, an Ann Arbor resident, also expressed discontent with the House maps because he said the maps would create partisanship in the state.
“The House districts are unacceptable,” Emus said. “They are unfairly partisan with non-competitive districts that do not represent the voting public of the state … House district maps can be produced that do not waste so many votes and so many districts and that are fair and balanced.”
Several citizens of Waterloo Township also weighed in at the meeting on the subject of changing Waterloo Township from Jackson County to Washtenaw County.
Dave Westner, resident of Waterloo Township, talked about the disadvantages of attaching Waterloo Township to Washtenaw County, pointing out that in Waterloo, citizens have different needs from the more urban areas of Washtenaw County.
“In reviewing the proposed redistricting maps, I was disappointed to discover that Waterloo Township has been separated from Jackson County and attached to Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County,” Westner said. “I believe this is contrary to the guiding principle of communities of interest, which is meant to maintain common values and needs and so forth of prospective communities.”
Mike Cameron, resident of Waterloo Township, agreed with Westner, emphasizing the importance of considering the diverse interests of Michiganders.
“My township has very different needs from the larger townships and communities of Washtenaw County,” Cameron said. “In almost every draft map, Waterloo Township is included with Washtenaw County, including the city of Ann Arbor. I have concerns about one representative being able to protect the concerns of these vastly different communities.”
Citizens also said they do not want the new districts to give an advantage to one political party. Halle Fox, recent U-M graduate and Ypsilanti resident, said political gerrymandering should not take place during this process.
“I’m here today because Michiganders like me deserve the opportunity to elect lawmakers in districts that do not unfairly advantage one party over another … there’s still much work to be done, especially with the state House maps to ensure that each Michigander has fair, proportional representation,” Fox said. “It is the duty of this commission to ensure that each and every Michigander has equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.”
Brian Greminger, resident of Lodi Township, encouraged equal representation in redistricting and elections.
“I believe that fair elections require fair maps and that means that there has to be an equal opportunity for parties to win elections if they have the most votes,” Greminger said.
Several attendees explained their support for bipartisan districts and specifically highlighted Prop 2, the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, which supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to an independent redistricting commission. This proposition was used to start the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and primarily focuses on ending political gerrymandering.
Gayle Steiner, resident of Ann Arbor, worked on the Prop 2 campaign and said she voted yes to end political gerrymandering and to ensure that everyone has a voice in state and national elections.
“I speak out today for the same reason I volunteered nearly full time with the Prop 2 campaign to end gerrymandering,” Steiner said. “That motivation is protecting people’s right to choose elected officials.”
Daily News Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.