Redistribution panel defends Detroit districts ahead of public hearings


Members of Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission on Monday defended proposed draft maps that rejected majority-minority districts in favor of spreading concentrations of minorities across districts.

But commission members also told media at a virtual press conference that the cards were far from complete and voter turnout data had yet to be reviewed, which could affect the roster. final of the controversial districts of the Detroit area.

“We certainly don’t view these cards as being made by any stretch of the imagination,” said Rebecca Szetela, chair of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and unaffiliated or independent representative.

The commission will begin a series of five public hearings on Wednesday to hear comments on 22 proposed map projects – 10 collaborative cards and 12 drawn by individual commission members – for the State House, State Senate, and Congress.

Public hearings will conclude on October 26, after which panel members will review any changes to the maps based on comments and vote on November 5 on the maps to move on to public comment.

The cards will be released publicly on November 14, starting a 45-day public comment period that ends on December 30 with a final vote on one card each for the State House, State Senate, and Congress.

So far, public reaction to the cards has been mixed. Some criticized the break-up of counties and other municipal boundaries, while others worried about opposition from incumbents in the same districts.

Corn some of the harshest reviews yet revolved around the Detroit area districts that were redesigned to distribute the concentrations of black residents in the districts. The commission did so on the advice of its consultants to reverse the “wrappers” under the earlier Republican-leaning map plans.

Wrapping is a process in which map designers concentrate party supporters in certain limited districts so that their influence is contained and does not spill out beyond those areas.

But several black lawmakers last week criticized the commission’s efforts to “unpack” Detroit, saying the commission’s efforts to unpack by combining predominantly black areas of Detroit with the suburbs would hurt black candidates’ chances of victory.

Where there are currently 17 black-majority districts in Michigan across the 161 districts of the State House, State Senate, and Congress, there are none in the collaborative maps offered.

“They have drawn the city of Detroit into districts that the people of Detroit will not win and black people will not win because the majority of the electoral base is in suburban communities, especially in the primaries where Democratic races are. decided, ”said Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit. , said last week.

The Michigan Democratic Party reiterated Hollier’s message on Monday.

“I am extremely proud of the diversity of our current delegation,” Michigan Democratic Party President Lavora Barnes said in a statement. “We fought to be heard. It would be a mistake for the MICRC to go back in time and diminish the ability of the Michiganders to elect black and brown voices.”

Commission member MC Rothhorn, a Democrat, assured reporters on Monday that he was aware of concerns and fears expressed about the Detroit-area districts. The commission expects to receive data on voter turnout that could help better understand the problem and determine whether the cards should stay as they are, he said.

Rothhorn, Szetela and Commissioner Doug Clark, a Republican, maintained their confidence in the advice of their voting and partisan fairness experts regarding Detroit-area districts.

“That’s why it’s less than 50%,” Rothhorn said. “They believe and we believe this is the best process to help minorities elect the candidates they want.”

The voting rights law does not oblige the commission to maintain majority minority districts, Szetela said.

“If you look at the current maps of Metro Detroit in particular, you have districts at 80, 85, in some cases 90% African American and what we did was take those areas and split them up into several districts. so that there are actually more districts where minority voters can elect the candidate of their choice, ”Szetela said.

“This should actually have the effect of increasing representation within the African American community.”

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Schedule of public hearings

All public hearings take place from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a break between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Wednesday, TCF Center, Detroit

Thursday, Lansing Center, Lansing

Friday, DeVos Place, Steelcase Ballroom, Grand Rapids

October 25, Treetops Resort, Gaylord

October 26, Dort Center, Flint

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