Flint, Mich. — Flint residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on draft district lines proposed by Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for the state House of Representatives, state Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives during a hearing on Oct. 26.

The commission is presenting four drafts of maps for the U.S. House, and three drafts of maps for the state House and state Senate, all drawn as a group. Commissioners also had the opportunity to submit maps they drew individually.

Under the proposed maps, Flint would be part of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, which would also include part of Midland as districts expand to include about 102,000 more residents as Michigan is losing a seat in Congress following the latest U.S. Census.

That district would lean slightly towards Republicans, according to FiveThirtyEight, but would remain highly competitive.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Twp.) would be drawn into the same district as U.S. Rep John Moolenaar (R-Midland) under the proposed maps.

Analysts suggest that Moolenaar would likely run for the neighboring 13th Congressional 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 from Michigan State University and the commission show that while the draft state legislative districts slightly benefit Republicans using measures like the “efficiency gap,” which determines whether voters are packed into districts in such a way that they waste votes, the proposed maps would put control of the state House and state Senate within reach for both Democrats and Republicans, with an even tie also a possibility.

Residents can RSVP to attend the hearing, which will take place at the Dort Financial Center on Oct. 26 from 1 p.m.–8 p.m. with a break from 3:30 p.m.–5 p.m., on the commission’s website. Doors open at 12 p.m.. The option to sign up to speak remotely closes at 3 p.m. the day of the event, and in-person public comment sign-up ends at 7 p.m.

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Michigan Civil Rights Department Executive Director John Johnson Jr. said during the commission’s first hearing in Detroit this week that the maps violate the Voting Rights Act, arguing the maps fail to preserve the rights of minority voters to elect their preferred candidates.

“They dilute minority-majority districts and strip the ability for a minority voter to elect legislative representatives who reflect their community and affect any meaningful opportunity to impact public policy and lawmaking,” Johnson said.

Under the current maps, drawn by legislative Republicans in 2010, there are 15 majority-minority districts across the U.S. House, state House and state Senate. The commission’s draft maps would contain zero.

Bruce Adelson, the commission’s voting rights attorney, has advised commissioners that the current districts dilute the voting strength of minority voters by packing them into fewer districts.

The commission’s legal team recommended lowering the number of Black residents within the voting age population to between 35-40 percent in Detroit districts.

 Commissioners initially expressed some unease with the reduced percentages, but have since defended the districts as increasing Black voters’ representation by “unpacking” them from a few districts and spreading them across several more districts.

In addition to considering the Voting Rights Act, 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.

The commission previously held a hearing in Flint before they began drawing district lines, which drew about 30 speakers.

“You must start the maps over from scratch,” Michelle Gushen, a retired Flint Community Schools teacher, told the commission during the first hearing. “We used to say ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ but in this case, toss those babies out. Our current maps are damaging, partisan, gerrymandering puzzles and are a direct assault on Michigan’s democratic process.”

The commission plans to vote on maps Nov. 5, which would be followed by a 45-day public comment period. They would then vote to adopt the final maps on Dec. 30, which would require support from at least two Republicans, two Democrats and two Independents serving on the commission.

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...