Flint, Mich—Michigan’s independent redistricting commission will take public comments from Flint-area residents during a hearing Tuesday as they prepare to draw new district lines for Michigan’s congressional and state legislative districts.

The hearing will take place June 1 at 6 p.m. at the Dort Financial Center. Doors open an hour prior to the start of the event.

Individuals can sign up to provide public comment at the hearing, in-person, or remotely, here.

Written testimony and redistricting plans can also be submitted on the commission’s website.

“As an American, I believe I have a duty to ensure that the community is well informed about their opportunity to play a critical role in Michigan’s redistricting process,” said Richard Weiss, an independent member of the commission from Saginaw. “Rather than it being done discreetly, it’ll be done publicly. We encourage Flint residents to attend or listen in and make their voices heard.”

Hearings have previously been held in Jackson, Kalamazoo, Marquette, Gaylord, Midland and Lansing. A total of 16 hearings have been scheduled through July 1.

The commission is required to hold at least 10 hearings throughout the state to inform the public about the redistricting process and seek input on potential plans. They hope to collect 10,000 public comments by the end of the tour.

Once the commission has proposed redistricting plans, they must hold at least five more public hearings to solicit feedback on the proposals.

Dates for the second round of hearings have not yet been announced.

The commission has a deadline of Sept. 17 to present a public draft of the maps, with a final vote to adopt the districts happening by Nov. 1 before they take effect on Dec. 31.

But delays in census data mean specific information about which areas of the state grew or shrunk in population won’t be released until Sept. 30, about six months after the U.S. Census Bureau’s deadline of March 31 and two weeks after the commission is supposed to have drawn maps to propose.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the commission have asked the Michigan Supreme Court for a three-month extension, which would allow them to propose the maps by Dec. 11 and adopt them by Jan. 25, 2022, following a 45-day public comment period.

That timeline would not change the filing deadline for candidates, who would still have to collect and submit nominating petitions for the new districts by April 19, 2022 in order to appear on the August 2022 primary ballot.

Further complicating matters for some candidates, Michigan will lose one seat in Congress during the redistricting process, as census data shows the state population growing at a rate slower than other states.  

That seat is likely to come from the Detroit area, possibly leaving one of six Detroit-area Democrats’ districts merged with another member’s, according to Dave Wasserman, who covers the U.S. House for the Cook Political Report.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Brenda Lawrence have districts within the city of Detroit, while Reps. Andy Levin, Debbie Dingell, Elissa Slotkin, and Haley Stevens represent the suburbs.

The commission will likely try to preserve the two majority Black districts within the city, potentially leaving the four suburban Democratic members to play musical chairs with a reduced three districts.

“There may not be enough blue turf left to protect all four suburban Ds,” Wasserman said on Twitter.

Michigan’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Flint, will have to expand to include about 102,000 more residents.

That could pose an increased challenge for Rep. Dan Kildee, as the district, which voted for President Joe Biden by 4 percentage points in 2020, is surrounded on most sides by areas that heavily supported former President Donald Trump, Wasserman said.

Michigan’s current congressional delegation is split evenly, with seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

Republicans currently control both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, with a six-seat margin in the House and a four-seat margin in the Senate. Two Senate seats that had previously been held by Republicans are currently vacant.

Michigan’s top three executive branch officials – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Benson, all Democrats – will also be up for re-election next year.

Before the independent redistricting commission was approved in 2018, district maps had been drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2000 and 2010, and the Michigan Supreme Court in 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990.

Under the U.S. and Michigan constitutions, the commission is required to have districts be geographically contiguous and reasonably compact, must consider communities of interest as well as city, county and township boundaries, and must not give a disproportionate advantage to any political party or favor or disfavor any incumbent elected officials.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...