Redistricting panel nears end of mapping process, start of public hearing period

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has about a week to tie up loose ends before they submit the proposed draft maps for about a month of public hearings.

By Oct. 12, the commission is expected to submit to the public state House, state Senate and congressional maps the group worked on collaboratively as well as individual maps submitted by some members.

The maps are the fruit of hours of public mapping meetings where the 13 member commission has attempted to balance population numbers, racial populations, partisan fairness and communities of interest. Daily adjustments to the maps were often criticized by interest groups and residents as leaning too far Republican or too far toward Democratic candidates, adding to the timeline pressures on the commission.

Michigan redistricting commission member Anthony Eid, left, listens to public comments during a September 2021 meeting.

On Monday, the commission spent hours attempting to balance racial populations among state Senate districts in the Detroit area to avoid the appearance of “packing” some districts with high percentages of African American voters. The considerations brought up a separate slate of concerns from commissioners.

Commissioner Anthony Eid, joined by two other commissioners, said he was becoming "increasingly concerned" that members were unpacking the districts too much and risked creating sprawling, oddly shaped districts that diluted the vote of Black voters. 

"The numbers that we're hitting, it just makes me question how is that going to work with actually electing a candidate of choice," Eid said. 

The commission’s Voting Rights Act expert Bruce Adelson said he believed the commission's collaborative Senate district map met the federal requirements set before them. He had set benchmarks and guidelines for the commission that would cap Black populations in Wayne and Genesee counties at 35-40%, in Saginaw County at 40-45%  and in Oakland County at 42-43%.

"You are creating districts where you are diversifying population while maintaining, protecting the ability to elect candidates of choice," Adelson said. 

The commission will spend the coming days tweaking its collaborative maps and some individual submissions to bring them into compliance with several criteria. They meet every weekday this week as well as Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 12, multiple maps will be available for the second round of public hearings, or a sort of semifinals round. 

After five public hearings, the commission will meet Nov. 5 to vote on congressional, state House and state Senate maps that will advance to a final round of public comment. 

Those maps will be published Nov. 14, starting a 45-day clock for public comment. Commissioners are expected to adopt final maps on Dec. 30.