For the first time, voters will get to draw their own voting districts. Thousands of Michiganders have already applied to serve on the commission that will hold the pen.
LANSING, MI — Michiganders have until Monday to apply to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The commission will have thirteen members: four Democrats, four Republicans and five Independents. Rather than politicians serving on the commission, it will be made up of everyday Michiganders. That’s a result of a 2018 citizen initiative that changed how voting districts would be drawn following the 2020 census.
Commissioners will be compensated $40,000 for their service. That service consists of traveling the state hosting town halls, seeking input from across Michigan as to what those voting district maps should look like. The commission will ultimately take comments, suggested maps and other citizen input and create the voting district maps that will be used for the next ten years.
Interested Michiganders can apply online. First, applicants fill out a questionnaire at redistrictingmichigan.org. They must also submit a notarized application by June 1. That should be a bit easier during the pandemic, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-73 allows remote notarizations and e-signatures. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson provided a list of available remote notary services.
The group Voters Not Politicians, who organized the ballot proposal that created the commission, invites Michiganders seeking more information on the application process to sign up to receive instructions and tips on their website.
Most Michiganders are eligible to serve on the commission.
“Essentially, if you haven’t run for office in the last six years and you’re not a lobbyist or you don’t work for a lobbyist, it’s likely that you’re eligible to apply,” Benson said in a tele-town hall earlier this month. “If you have any questions, even after going to the website or completing the application, you can also email email@example.com with your specific scenario and our team will provide whatever information they can.”
The entire pool of applicants, well over 4,000 so far, will be randomly narrowed down to just 200 candidates. The questionnaires of those 200 will have personal identifying information removed and be provided to the leadership of both parties in the Michigan Legislature, who combined can reject 20 candidates. The remaining 180 will be again randomly narrowed down to the final 13 commissioners.
The commission will be entirely independent. Benson’s office will keep a record of the commission’s activities and provide logistical support but will not be involved in any decision-making capacity.
“Michigan was instantly placed in a leadership position leading the way for citizens in other states trying to find a way to amplify their voices and power in the process of drawing congressional and legislative districts,” Benson told constituents. “We’re now at a unique and unprecedented moment where we can set lasting precedent and create a model for other states in how we operate here.”
For those not serving on the commission, there are still ways to be involved, Benson said. She intends to make tools to make suggested maps publicly available, and the commission’s town halls across the state will be chances for Michiganders to raise questions, comments and concerns.
“A critical part of the success of the commission will be the ability of citizens to generate input and ultimately maps for the commission to consider,” Benson said.