By David Fleet
Groveland Twp.-By November Michigan voting districts will look much different.
Earlier this month Rebecca Szetela, an independent commissioner from Canton, representing the Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission (MIRC) provided an overview of the process during a recent township meeting.
“We are welcoming everyone’s ideas,” said Szetela, 47. “We are actively seeking comments about how they (citizens) want the lines drawn.”
Szetela, an attorney with a background in finance is one of the 13 randomly selected Michigan residents that includes four Democrats, five independents and four Republicans. The MICRC is responsible for redistricting the U.S. Congressional, Michigan House and Michigan Senate districts.
“I have the time, interest and ability to focus on this to assure we get fair and independent maps,” she said. “People have become disillusioned with the election process unfortunately in this country. I’m hoping if we have some fair and neutral maps people’s faith may be restored.”
In 2018, Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, a ballot initiative for “voters and not legislators,” to take responsibility for nonpartisan redistricting and created the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission the MICRC. The Voters Not Politicians proposal passed with about 61 percent of voters in favor and 39 percent opposed.
The aim of the new system is intended to end political gerrymandering, an old tradition in Michigan by which both Republicans and Democrats would redraw political lines to benefit politicians running or help out their party as a whole. Szetela said the Michigan Constitution establishes prioritized criteria for use when drawing voting districts. First, the Constitution requires that districts have equal populations and comply with the Voting Rights Act and other Federal laws. Secondly, districts must be geographically contiguous and reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest.
“Communities of interest may include populations that share cultural or historical characteristics or economic interests,” she said. “Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates. In addition, districts cannot provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party or favor or disfavor an incumbent elected official or a candidate. Lastly, districts shall reflect consideration of county, city, and township boundaries and be reasonably compact.”
Prior to drafts of any redistricting plan, the commission will hold 10 public hearings throughout the state. Where the meeting will be is yet to be determined. A redistricting plan must be presented by Nov. 1, 2021
Once the lines are redrawn there are many measures that can be used to test the end results of redistricting, including population equality, geographic compactness, partisan balance, community integrity, and the efficiency gap, said Szetela. “The methods the MICRC will use to evaluate its proposed maps has not yet been determined,” she added
Because the MICRC is completely redrawing U.S. House, Michigan House, and Michigan Senate districts for the entire State, many areas, even smaller communities, like Atlas, Brandon and Groveland townships may see some changes to their district boundaries.
“Therefore, the MICRC seeks input from all communities regarding the redistricting process,” she said.
Szetela said the purpose of the public hearings are to inform the public regarding the process, share the responsibilities of the commission and to seek information about potential redistricting plans. For example, districts will “reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest,” and “districts shall not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party.”
The MICRC encourages residents to provide input into the redistricting process. Residents may provide input via our email address at Redistricting@michigan.gov, via mail at MICRC/P.O. Box 30318/Lansing, MI 48909, or by providing public comments during our MICRC weekly meetings on Thursdays, at upcoming Public Hearings. The MICRC’s current meeting schedule is located at: https://www.michigan.gov/micrc/0,10083,7-418-92033-547695—,00.html
By David Fleet