MICHIGAN — The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) is expected to vote on the final political district maps starting Dec. 28.
The upcoming finalization of the state’s political boundaries comes after months of debate and deliberation over the drawing of state and federal districts, with the aim to give stronger representation to affected communities of collective and political affiliations.
Those lines were previously drawn every 10 years by elected officials from whichever political party was in power to assure electoral strongholds. That was the case until 2018, when voters decided that redistricting should be a citizen-led effort and that maps should be drawn to reflect our diverse communities.
Many community activists have pointed out the power of increased minority and ethnic, working class representation in congressional districts, to secure federal funding for infrastructure, education and more.
But the process has also seen challenges and criticism throughout.
A good example was in October, when Amer Zahr, a well known Arab American political commentator, pointed out how proposed House districts for the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights area split Arab enclaves and combined them with non-Arab neighborhoods in those cities, and in Detroit and other Wayne County communities.
The effect of such a split would be the dilution of the “Arab voice” in state legislative processes. Though those proposed maps have changed since October, the current drafts of those maps being considered by the Commission, found at Michigan.gov/micrc/, continue to show a similar split.
Another analysis, from the state’s civil rights experts, says the new maps do not meet federal legal requirements to protect minority votes and uphold the Voting Rights Act.
“The maps under consideration do not measure up to the requirements of the law and do not meet the test of fairness and equity that should be the goal of this Commission,” said Dr. Jerome Reide, legislative liaison for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Reide’s analysis was filed with the MICRC on December 9, in advance of the end of the public comment period and the Commission’s final vote on the maps on Dec. 30.
“The Commission still has time to produce maps that will not dilute the minority vote or violate the Voting Rights Act,” Reide said.
The analysis says that none of the five Congressional District maps proposed on Nov. 5 includes a majority Black district. Currently Michigan has two majority-minority Congressional districts — the 13th (U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit) and 14th (U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield).
The Commission still has time to produce maps that will not dilute the minority vote or violate the Voting Rights Act. — Dr. Jerome Reide
It says the Voting Rights Act requires that the Commission draw majority-minority districts to prevent vote dilution in Saginaw, Southfield, Flint, Pontiac, Taylor, Inkster, Redford, Hamtramck and Detroit.
Each of these communities of interest could be denied the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice if the present percentages of majority-minority districts are diluted.
The Voting Rights Act is designed to allow for coalitions of Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and other minority residents, as well as those who identify with two or more racial groups, to coalesce and elect candidates of their choice.
Reide said the latest MICRC maps remove that opportunity and will prevent many of Michigan’s minority voters from any reasonable chance of electing their preferred candidates.
In response to the analysis, a spokesperson for the commission told Local 4 News, “We trust the counsel received from our voting rights attorney.”
The Commission, which continues to take public comments on its website, is also bracing for a number of lawsuits to be filed by both Democrats and Republicans in the wake of its finalizing of the state’s political maps.
It will hold three public meetings in its final voting days starting Dec. 28 in Lansing. Follow the Commission on Facebook at Facebook.com/RedistrictingMI.