Michigan redistricting commission finalizes revised state House voting map

(MICRC map)

By Michigan Advance

February 29, 2024

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Two months after a federal judge panel ordered Michigan’s redistricting commission to redraw seven state House districts that it says diluted Black voting power in the Detroit area, the commission finalized a revised map on Wednesday to be submitted for court review.

Receiving bipartisan support from 10 of the 13 commissioners, the new map called Motown Sound FC E1 will be reviewed by the three-judge panel to determine if the new map remedies the unconstitutionality of the previous submission. If the court determines the maps still fall short of legal standards, the map from the court-appointed special master will be considered.

All the members of the commission were engaged with the process of redrawing Michigan’s voting maps through what was at times an “ugly” process, Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) Executive Director Edward Woods III said.

The MICRC has been subject to public criticism, notably from Detroit stakeholders who raised legal challenges to the original map submitted. And only a few weeks ago three new commissioners were added to replace commissioners who resigned as the group had two months to revise the map after taking over a year to draw the first one.

“You selected a map. It might not have been the map you preferred, but you came together through a challenging process with the courts,” Woods said. “You were invested in the project. You gave it your best and the state of Michigan is really in your debt, for what you have accomplished. … It might have been ugly and sometimes it might have been hard sometimes. You might’ve wanted to pull your hair out, but you made it work individually and collectively. So salutations, congratulations. You did an outstanding job.”

In total, seven state House districts and six state Senate districts were ordered to be redrawn. But because all seats in Michigan’s 110-member state House are on the ballot in November, the MICRC had a tight timeline before the April 23 filing deadline. The new Senate maps need to be finalized before most Senate seats are up for grabs in 2026.

Commissioners spent several hours Tuesday and Wednesday finalizing potential maps leading up to a vote Wednesday afternoon. Ultimately final choices came down to the maps named Szetela Version 4, Willow, Water Lily and Motown Sound FC E1.

During the first round of votes, nine out of the 13 commissioners approved the Motown Sound map. But it fell short of the constitutional majority required under Michigan law, as only one Republican commissioner voted in favor of the map.

Republican Commissioner Cynthia Orton, switched her vote in the second round from the Willow plan that had a “lakeshore district” which would have combined St. Clair Shores and Grosse Pointe Shores into one state House district. And with her vote, the map was approved.

The majority of commissioners over the last two days expressed support for the Motown Sound map, with Detroit commissioners, in particular, reiterating to the group that these maps represent real people.

When members spoke on Wednesday about community comments and support for certain maps from constituents outside of Detroit proper, Commissioner Brittni Kellom cautioned that the volume of public support for one map doesn’t necessarily mean it reflects the interests of the majority of people it impacts. She became emotional as she reminded the commission ahead of the state Senate map revision, that “people are listening” to what the commission says about their homes.

“The people that are angry, the people that speak out more are the people that have the luxury of doing so. So when we’re drawing for Detroit and going into the Senate maps, I hope you at least for me as a one of the Black people on this commissioner and as a Detroiter, I’m getting a little emotional,” Kellom said. “I hope this is a learning experience in your privilege and listening. I’m not crying because I think that this map is just wonderful. It’s a disappointment.”

READ MORE: What’s the deal with Michigan’s legislative maps? And how do we fix them?

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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