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How to participate in Michigan redistricting commission hearings

Michigan map
For years, the political party in power in Lansing had drawn the state’s legislative districts. That led to maps that courts determined were among the nation’s most gerrymandered. (Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com)

June 11: Michigan’s redistricting commission sought opinions. It got plenty.

LANSING — Starting this week, the state’s 13-person redistricting panel will go on a statewide public hearing tour to help it decide how to draw the state’s new political districts.

Their first two stops: Jackson and Kalamazoo.

Upcoming meetings

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in-person public hearings throughout the state to hear from community members regarding redistricting.

All meetings are at 6 p.m.

May 11:  American 1 Event Center in Jackson

May 13: Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo

May 18: Northern Michigan University in Marquette

May 20: Treetops Resort in Gaylord

May 25: Great Hall Banquet & Convention Center in Midland

May 27: The Lansing Center in Lansing

June 1: Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center in Flint

June 3: Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn

June 8: Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi

June 10: Auburn Hills Marriott at Centerpoint in Pontiac

June 15: Fellowship Chapel in Detroit

June 17: TCF Center in Detroit

June 22:  Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron

June 24: MRCC Banquet Center in Warren

June 29: Van Dyk Mortgage Convention Center in Muskegon

July 1: DeVos Place in Grand Rapids

Edward Woods III, the communications and outreach director at the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, told reporters Monday the group’s goal is to get 10,000 unique comments throughout the public hearings, the commission’s website and the mail.

The public input will be used to create the new congressional and state legislative districts. Because of stagnant population, Michigan will lose one seat in Congress, going from 14 to 13 districts.

Related:

“We want to hear from you … so that the maps that are adopted, reflect the will of Michigan,” Woods said.

Since 1990, the party in power at the Michigan Legislature has been in charge of drawing the political districts. That led to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country.

But in 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the state constitution that shifted the responsibility to an independent commission. 

According to the state constitution, before commissioners draft any plan, the group is required to hold “at least ten public hearings throughout the state for the purpose of informing the public about the redistricting process and the purpose and responsibilities of the commission and soliciting information from the public about potential plans.”

Despite the pandemic, the commission has pledged to hold 16 in-person meetings to hear from the different communities of interest across the state.

According to the state constitution, it is a broad term defined as those communities that share historical, economic or cultural similarities.

Hassan Jaber, the president of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn, said the focus on communities means that minority groups will have a better chance of being heard.

 

“Arab Americans are asking for fair, and truly representative redistricting lines,” Jaber said. “There is a political challenge for our nation, and Michigan can take the lead … to create an inclusive democracy, reflecting the wonderful and rich diversity of our people.”

Jaber said the only way this new process will work is if people participate and become involved.

Here’s how to submit public comment, or to express why your community of interest should be part of a district:

  • In-person: If you are physically attending one of the hearings, you must sign-up in-person by 8 p.m. the day of the hearing.
  • Remote: Those interested in attending the meeting via Zoom and share their thoughts, must sign up by noon the day of the meeting. 
  • Mail: Submit your comment to P.O. Box 30318, Lansing, MI 48909.

Woods, with the redistricting commission, said those providing real-time public comments will have up to two minutes to speak.

At each meeting, there will be an American Sign Language interpreter, and interpreters for Spanish and Arabic.

People with other specific language accommodations should email ReinhardtS@michigan.gov or call (517) 285-0043.

“Language is not a barrier to ensure that your voice is heard,” Woods said.

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