Flint, MI–Flint residents have begun weighing in on refined versions of proposed new maps for the state house, state senate, and U.S. house, after the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission entered its final phase of the process.
In total, the commission has put forward 15 potential maps for consideration. Nine of the maps were drawn and approved as a group, while six were submitted by individual commissioners.
Residents have until Dec. 30 to weigh in on the maps, when the commission will meet to hold a final vote approving each set of new district lines.
Each of the three collaborative state house maps – named Pine V5, Magnolia, and Hickory – would put Flint into a single district, addressing concerns raised by residents at a hearing in the city in October. Earlier versions of the maps would have split the city across two districts. That change would have created another majority-Black district.
“After all the city has been through, to divide us would be another slap in the face to the residents and the city of Flint,” Muriel Samuels, a Flint resident and retired General Motors worker, told the commission on Oct. 26.
Alfred Harris, the pastor at Saints of God Church, expressed a similar sentiment during the hearing.
“I feel in my heart of hearts, that to divide Flint is just taking away Black representation, and we can’t do that,” Harris told the commission.
However, the change brought a new wave of public comments from residents who are opposed to being grouped into a single district.
“Today, Flint has two districts (the 34th and the 49th) with the 34th guaranteeing Flint representation and the 49th allowing a second opportunity for representation,” Lori Ross commented. “The map proposed here completely forecloses the chance for two representatives, instead packing all of Flint into a single district which also would have the effect of creating a clear partisan gerrymander since Flint is an overwhelmingly Democratic city.”
Nancy Tiseo left a supportive comment for the Magnolia state House plan, saying that it “gives Flint a well deserved clear voice.”
Currently, Flint is represented in part by Rep. Cynthia Neeley and in part by Rep. John Cherry, who live less than three miles apart from one another.
However, under the proposed maps, the two would both reside in the same district.
That’s just one example of incumbents who could face being drawn out of their districts by the commission. Analysis from Bridge Michigan showed that as many as half of all seats in the state Legislature could have new representation next year as a result of the redistricting process and term limits.
The commission is forbidden from considering incumbent officeholders when drawing new district lines.
In the past, district lines have been drawn by the state legislature, giving the party who controls the state house and state senate great power over the process. That also meant that, in some cases, incumbents were needed to vote in favor of their own district lines.
While state legislators are required to live in the districts they run for–potentially creating a problem for Neeley and Cherry, unless one of them moves–members of the U.S. house are not required to live in their districts.
Four of five proposed maps for the U.S. house would group U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Twp.) and U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) in the same district as part of Midland was drawn into a district with Flint. Each district must expand to include about 102,000 more residents after Michigan lost a seat in Congress following the latest U.S. Census.
Analysts suggest that Moolenaar would likely run for a neighboring district, which includes the rest of Midland and parts of West Michigan.
Kildee could then face a challenge from former Attorney General Bill Schuette, who resides in Midland, Gongwer News Service reports.
Schuette was the Republican nominee for governor in 2018 and previously served in Congress from 1985 to 1991.
While statewide elections in Michigan favored Democrats in both 2018 and 2020, Republicans have maintained control of the state Senate with a margin of 22-16 and the state House with a margin of 58-52.
Analysis shows that control of the Legislature would be within reach for both parties under the proposed maps, with Democrats being slightly favored over the previous 10 years.
Residents can submit public comment online, by visiting each interactive map on the commission’s website, or at an upcoming meeting. The commission is meeting 10 am to 2 pm on Dec. 2 in Lansing; Dec. 16 in Detroit; and Dec. 30 in Lansing.
Flint residents have not yet posted comments on any of the proposed state Senate or U.S. House maps.
The commission will meet Dec. 30 to give final approval to each map.
While some comments call for revisions to be made, that is unlikely to happen; rather, the commission will select which of the already proposed maps to give final approval to.
Under the state constitution, the commission will first select from among the proposed collaborative maps. That map would be required to get support from at least two Republicans, two Democrats, and two independents on the commission to be approved.
If none of the collaborative maps meet that threshold, the commission would then consider the maps drafted by individual commissioners, using a ranked choice ballot system.
If the commission still couldn’t agree on a map, the secretary of state’s office could select one of the plans put forward by the commission at random.
Residents can search their address to find what district they would reside in under each plan and offer their comments on each plan here:
- Cherry V2
- Commissioner Brittni Kellom Senate Map
- Commissioner Rhonda Lange Senate Map
- Commissioner Rebecca Szetela Senate Map