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Michigan residents are finally drawing their own voting maps and this is how you can help shape your community.

JACKSON, Mich.—About 70 people gathered in Jackson Tuesday, May 11, to help draw the voting maps for the next ten years. It was the first public event hosted by the Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission (MICRC). This commission will lead residents in shaping voting maps for all of Michigan. 

And every resident can weigh in on their community. 

In Jackson, some residents want to keep the “rural flavor” of the district they lived in, by pairing rural Jackson county with areas in rural Washtenaw or similar proposals. 

“I grew up on a farm and appreciate how tough rural life can be,” said Bruce Barlond of Eaton County. “Let’s keep rural areas rural, because that’s what we are.”

RELATED: Michigan Lost an Electoral Vote. It Could Lose More than That if GOP Plans Pass.

Others remind the district of being inclusive.

“Equity is doing the right thing for everyone,” Jackson resident Myeshia Jones said to the members of the commission. “We need to redo these lines. It’s not okay.”

She encouraged the voting districts in the Jackson area to be drawn with that in mind, hoping the diverse areas around Jackson better reflect the population of the city, rather than crowding out voices of modern families living in Jackson today. 

With each member of the public sharing their own ideas, MICRC Commissioner M.C. Rothhorn of Lansing said he’s hopeful about redrawing maps that are fair and for the people. 

“I feel like it sets a hopeful tone,” he told MLive. “People weren’t just saying political stuff—it felt like it was heartfelt.”

The next meeting in the tour of 16 Michigan regions will be Thursday, May 13, in Kalamazoo. But according to polling in the latest issue of Lake Effect, most Michiganders don’t know what the commission is, let alone how to get involved.

Putting the Pen in Michiganders’ Hands

In Michigan, voting maps are drawn by the people, not politicians. 

That’s because in 2018, the group Voters Not Politicians campaigned for an amendment to Michigan’s constitution. It was popularly passed by Michigan voters who wanted more power to the people. 

But until this year, politicians were still drawing the maps of who would be voting for them. That leaves it open to politicians choosing the voters that would most likely keep them in power. 

Last year the census came around, meaning it’s time for voting maps to be redrawn. 

READ MORE: How Michigan’s New Redistricting Commission Brings Us Closer to a Better Legislature

The new Redistricting Michigan program and the redistricting commission is starting by gathering public comments before the maps are ultimately created. That’s where the 16 events across Michigan come in.

“This is the start of a public hearing tour that the MICRC is doing to collect input from Michiganders statewide about how best to draw the state’s congressional and legislative district lines—a vital function in our democracy,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “We urge all Michigan residents to make their voices heard at a public hearing or by submitting written comments and maps. The MICRC needs our input to draw districts that represent the needs of voters, not politicians.”

So You Want to Get Involved? Here’s How

Michiganders can, of course, attend the nearest meeting in person, but they can also sign up to testify virtually, submit online public comments, or even submit their own map proposals. Organizations can also request a speaker or event from the commission online. 

People can contact the commission by emailing redistricting@michigan.gov or sending a letter to MICRC, PO Box 30318, Lansing MI 48909.

SEE ALSO: Black Rural Michiganders Struggle to Be Heard by Rep. Lisa McClain

These communities will hold the public meetings open to everyone: 

  • Kalamazoo May 13 at Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Dr.
  • Marquette May 18 at The Northern Center at Northern Michigan University, 1402 Presque Isle Ave.
  • Gaylord May 20 at Treetop Resorts, 3962 Wilkinson Rd.
  • Midland May 25 at Great Hall Banquet & Convention Center, 5121 Bay City Rd.
  • Lansing May 27 at Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave.
  • Flint June 1 at Dort Financial Center, 3501 Lapeer Rd.
  • Dearborn June 3 at Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave.
  • Novi June 8 at Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave.
  • Pontiac June 10 at Centerpoint Marriott, 3555 Centerpoint Pkwy.
  • Detroit  June 15 at The Village Dome at Fellowship Chapel, 7707 W. Outer Dr. 
  • Detroit  June 17 at TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall), 1 Washington Blvd.
  • Port Huron June 22 at Blue Water Convention Center, 800 Harker St.
  • Warren June 24 at MRCC Banquet Center, 23401 Mound Rd.
  • Muskegon June 29 at VanDyke Mortgage Convention Center, 939 Third St.
  • Grand Rapids July 1 at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave NW