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Michigan mapmakers raise own pay to redraw political lines rejected by court

(Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • Michigan redistricting commission approves 40% pay increase during active mapping sessions 
  • Pay hike applies to recent work on new state House map, upcoming Senate redraw
  • Critics argue the raise is undeserved in wake of federal court order ruling that several Detroit legislative districts were unfair to Black voters

Michigan’s redistricting commissioners are giving themselves a 40% pay increase during mapping sessions, citing the additional workload incurred during a court-ordered redraw of metro Detroit legislative maps.

Commissioners voted 9-4 during a Thursday meeting to pay themselves 35% of the governor’s salary, an annual rate of $55,755, during active sessions to redraw maps that federal judges said disenfranchised Black voters.


The raise is backdated for the commission’s redraw of Detroit-area state House maps between Jan. 15 and March 3. It’s also set to apply for the pending Senate map redraw before reverting back to the current annual salary rate of $39,825. 


Executive Director Edward Woods justified the raise by noting it would be limited to active mapping dates. But critics scoffed at the move. 

“Anyone you know get a 40% raise for being bad at their job?” Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, said in a social media post.

The constitutional amendment that created the taxpayer-funded commission requires members to be paid 25% of the governor’s salary, but it doesn’t prevent commissioners from giving themselves raises or stipulate when the salary stops — a situation that’s repeatedly sparked controversy from the public and lawmakers required to approve funding. 

Michigan’s House, Senate and congressional districts were finalized in December 2021. Commissioners continued to collect paychecks while meeting sporadically amid pending legal challenges, and at one point adopted a 7% raise well after mapping work was complete. That raise was later reversed after significant backlash.

Since commissioners were ordered by a federal court to redraw several Detroit-area House and Senate districts, several members have pressed for a raise, arguing their workload has substantially increased. 

The commission already submitted its proposed House map for court review, and Senate mapping is expected to begin this spring.

Critics maintain a minimum salary would be appropriate for the amount of hours commissioners are putting in, especially considering the redraw was spurred by a court order declaring the commission’s previous work unconstitutional.


Commissioner Rebecca Szetela, one of the panel’s nonpartisan members, estimated commissioners averaged slightly over 11 hours a week in hearings this year. That would put members’ pay at about $63 per hour, “which I think is more than adequate to compensate for what we’re doing,” she said. 

“Asking for more money for ourselves is not good optics — it’s not good public service, in my opinion,” Szetela said. 

Legislative Republicans blasted the decision, calling the pay raise an unearned reward for failure and a “flagrant disregard” for public service and Michigan taxpayers.  

“This decision sends a dangerous message that mistakes will be met with rewards rather than corrected through genuine effort and improvement,” Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton, said in a statement. 

Mapmakers recently finalized a new metro Detroit House map that would keep more Detroit-based districts within city limits and increase Black majorities in several state House seats. 

The federal three-judge panel overseeing the redraw will decide this month whether to adopt the commission’s new districts or go with a separate map drawn by a court-appointed expert. 

Detroit voters who challenged the existing maps favor the latter path, but a report filed this week by a redistricting expert tasked with reviewing the commission’s work found no major flaws with the new map. 

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