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Two dissidents survive latest Michigan redistricting commission cuts

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The leaders of the Michigan Legislature trimmed 20 names Friday from the pool of 200 semifinalists who could redraw the state's political boundaries as part of the new independent redistricting commission.

But two semifinalists who previously told The Detroit News they don't want to serve made it through the latest round of cuts, meaning their chances of being randomly picked for the 13-member commission are still alive.

The voter-approved 2018 constitutional amendment creating the commission allowed Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint; House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering; House Minority Leader Chris Greig, D-Farmington Hills, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, each to strike five names from the list of 200 semifinalists.

The leaders of the Michigan Legislature trimmed 20 names Friday from the pool of 200 semifinalists who could redraw the state's political boundaries as part of the new independent redistricting commission.

Their strikes were due to the Michigan Secretary of State on Friday. There are now 180 semifinalists remaining. The random selection for the 13 commissioners — four self-identified Democrats, four self-defined Republicans and five self-declared independents — will take place by Sept. 1, as required by the Michigan Constitution.

More than 9,300 Michigan residents applied to be on the new redistricting commission that will redraw U.S. House, Michigan Senate and Michigan House district lines after the 2020 Census. The party in control of the Legislature and governor's office previously held the power to draw the political boundaries.

Through a random selection process that was designed to make the semifinalist pool representative of the state, the applicants were narrowed to 200.

A Detroit News analysis of the semifinalists last week found a diverse group of potential commission members with varying levels of interest in redrawing political boundaries. Some applicants had political ties even though the "independent" panel is supposed to take partisan politics out of redistricting.

Four of the individuals featured in The News story were among the 20 who were eliminated from consideration. 

But among the 180 remaining is Vincent Falzon, 67, of Oscoda, who was sent an application to serve on the commission and thought he was required to fill it out.

"I don’t want anything to do with it," Falzon said of serving on the commission. "I don’t want to travel around Michigan redistricting anything."

Another surviving semifinalist is Dorothy Hammes, 84, of West Bloomfield who said she also doesn't want to serve.

If a selected commissioner chooses not to serve, the Michigan Constitution allows for commissioners to resign, the Michigan Department of State said in its Friday release. Then, a new commissioner would be randomly selected from the remaining pool of semifinalists.

Among the individuals who were cut Friday was Ironwood City Clerk Karen Gullan, who was eliminated by Ananich. While elected officials in partisan offices are specifically barred from serving on the commission, Gullan works in an appointed, nonpartisan position.

Shirkey cut Michael Libbee, a geographer and professor emeritus at Central Michigan University, and William Wolf of Ludington, a non-affiliated semifinalist who had made contributions to Democratic Party causes.

Mark Zausmer, a lawyer from West Bloomfield, who has made more than $35,000 in political contributions in the last 10 years to candidates on both sides of the aisle, also made it through the latest round of cuts.

cmauger@detroitnews.com