What Are “Communities of Interest” and How Will They Affect Redistricting in Michigan?

Detroit Public TV and the U-M Ford School of Public Policy offered live coverage of a panel discussion of the new process for drawing election maps that could change the face of politics in the state

Last November, the voters of Michigan passed Proposal 2, which amended the Michigan Constitution to place legislative and congressional redistricting in the hands of a 13-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The amendment requires that the Commission be made up of “buckets” of four Democrat voters, four Republican voters and five voters who affiliate with neither of those parties.

Detroit Public TV and the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan provided live coverage of the panel on a key component of that commission – “Communities of Interest” (COIs). The event was being organized by Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Ford School, as part of its Policy Talks lecture series.

The redistricting amendment requires the Commission to draw Michigan’s election district maps in a fair and transparent way using public input. Commission-drawn maps must meet strict, prioritized criteria listed in the amendment.

COIs are high on the list of priorities in drawing new districts, after equal population, compliance with the Voting Rights Act and contiguity. However, COIs are a new concept for Michigan redistricting and are defined broadly in the amendment.

A panel of experts shared how COIs factor into the redistricting process, and how citizens can be involved in helping the Commission incorporate COIs in Michigan’s next set of election district maps.

Panelists:
• Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State
• Connie Malloy, Chair, 2010 California Citizens Redistricting Commission
• Chris Lamar, Legal Counsel for Redistricting with the Campaign Legal Center
• Christopher Thomas, former Director of Elections for the State of Michigan
• Nancy Wang, Voters Not Politicians, Executive Director, who will moderate the discussion

Among the topics they discussed:
• What are communities of interest (COIs)?
• How are they defined (some examples from Michigan and other states)?
• Where do they factor into the redistricting process?
• Why is it important for district maps to respect community boundaries?
• What is the actual process for drawing lines around communities?
• What to do with overlapping communities of interest?

The panel took place in the Annenberg Auditorium of the Ford School of Public Policy.

More information can be found here.

This event is sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.