DETROIT — The Michigan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission, (MICRC) held a public hearing Wednesday at TCF Center in Detroit.
The 1 p.m. meeting (which got off to a delayed 25-minute start) nearly filled the Ball Room conference room with residents who were concerned about the way in which they will be represented per the drafts the commission had proposed.
Citizens in Michigan voted in 2018 to rid gerrymandering, a referendum led by the group Voter, Not Politicians. In previous years, gerrymandering allowed politicians to draw up maps to manipulate or cast favor to one political party or for election results they want. Starting in 2022, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, a bipartisan group, will take on the role of drawing up new boundaries state-wide.
According to the State of Michigan’s website, the commission’s mission is to “assure Michigan’s Congressional, State Senate and State House district lines are drawn fairly in a citizen lead, transparent process, meeting Constitutional mandates.”
“We (Black, Detroiters) don’t have the majority voting power in the State, said Ramone Jackson, a member of the ‘Pressure’ a community advocacy group in Detroit. He was one of the many citizens who signed up for public comment at the commission hearing. “When we send reps to Lansing, we send nine people in a ring to fight against 100 more people …When they redistrict these communities and bring others voters in to vote with us, they are giving them the opportunity to elect officials with us.”
The criteria for reaching a fair and equitable standard calls on the commission to access equal population, adhere to the voting rights act, community interest, and partisan fairness.
Recently, elected officials and community activists gathered outside the Spirt of Detroit statue to calls for change to the way the current commission is slicing and dicing the maps. Instead of politicians, the commission will decide the district boundaries on how citizens are represented on the state and congressional level.
The commission says they are doing what’s fair in population, by the constitution, and other required steps. One of those steps is taking public feedback.
“Democracy is working,” said Edward Woods III, Communications and Outreach Director, MICRC. “Michigan residents are being heard. You never got this chance before in the previous system. People have a chance to show up, speak up and help the commission the commission #DrawFairMaps.” “We’re thrilled that we’re having this level of engagement, but the level of engagement can’t just be for the television cameras …we welcome criticism but with that criticism, provide a solution”.
The mounting criticism over the proposed maps is uniting multiple groups across Detroit and the State.
“As complex as it may be, cut us in!” said Malik Shabazz, founder of the Detroit New Black Panther Nation/New Marcus Garvey Movement. “Everybody on that board need to cut us in! We built this country. We fought, we bled, we died in every war …Voting rights is the essential part of being a citizen. We still are a majority black voting district and it matters. The black vote matters and so does our representation.”
“We find that these measures are being designed to keep us out of bound”, said Rev. Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit Branch NAACP last week. “We find that these maps being formed are designed not to include us but to exclude us. These packs which were designed by racking, stacking, packing, are designed to keep us out”.
The Michigan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission Michigan’s independent redistricting commission recently voted to take 10 newly drawn maps to the public. The commission has so far held 16 public hearings before introducing the proposed new maps. A series of hearings will continue across the state.
The commission believes their drafted maps represent the best balance between equal representation, community interests, civil rights and partisan fairness.
Citizens when can register to give community feedback for upcoming public hearings. To find out more information and how to view drafted maps visit www.michigan.gov/micrc