The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission continues to face backlash after announcing new maps for legislative and congressional districts late last year. The new maps have changed the landscape of statewide races for the upcoming election, and the commission continues to face litigation over the maps, with new legal challenges coming forward.
As the impacts of Michigan’s new congressional maps, which stay in effect for 10 years, continue to unfold, One Detroit’s Will Glover checks in with Bridge Michigan reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán to hear what’s happening in the aftermath of these newly adopted districts.
Will Glover, One Detroit, DPTV: Just briefly, give us an idea as to where we are in the process now?
Sergio Martinez-Beltran, Reporter, Bridge Michigan: Sure. Well, we have maps, right? The Commission a few weeks ago approved the three different maps. State House, State Senate and Congressional maps that are supposed to remain in effect for 10 years once they are published, and that could happen any time between now and March. We also know that the commission has also been sued by a group of Black lawmakers, most of them residents of Southeast Michigan, particularly Detroit. Because they say that the maps the commission passed, they violate their voting rights and that they further dilute their voting power.
Will Glover: Right. And so when it comes to the maps further diluting the voting power, I know it had something to do with the fact that there are less majority-minority districts, but the reasoning from the commission is that even though there are less, it still kind of broadens the, I believe the word clout is what they were saying?
Sergio Martinez-Beltran: What we’ve heard from experts, from the commission is that doing that actually dilutes the voting power of Black voters because you’re putting them all in one district instead of spreading them around so they can influence the election results in other districts, right, in other congressional races. And so that’s what we’ve seen in the past. And so commissioners taking in the advice from their voting experts and their voting rights attorney, they decided to lower the percentage of Black voters in many of the districts in the Detroit area, right? So what we know is that in the past, we’ve had 17 majority Black districts in the state legislature. That number comes down now to about 5, with a population over 51 percent Black.
Now, the commission also created additional districts, what they’re calling “opportunity districts,” which are districts where the minority population is not over 50 percent, but it’s around 40 to 50 percent. And they say that that could still allow them to elect their candidate of choice. So that’s the whole issue here, right? It’s you have on one side the commission saying we did the right thing because we’re actually creating more opportunity districts and potentially creating more opportunities to have people in Lansing, in the Legislature, that represent those communities. But then you have Black leaders in Detroit and Black voters in the Detroit area who are saying, “wait a minute, you might actually dilute our voting power here by doing this because now it’s not certain that the candidate of choice of the Black voters is going to get elected.”.
Will Glover: Where do we go from at this point in the process?
Sergio Martinez-Beltran: So we have to see how this lawsuit plays out. Truly, they’re asking a couple of things. One of them is for the Supreme Court to say that these maps violate the Constitution or violates the Voting Rights Act, and also that the Supreme Court asked the commission to stop what they’re doing. Go back to the drawing board and redraw the maps to create additional majority Black districts. So that’s in a summary right? What this lawsuit is trying to get, and as part of their lawsuit, if the Supreme Court were to side with the plaintiffs, it would also stop the implementation of these maps. And so it could have big ramifications, right? As we know, the commission is truly still in a tight timeline here because they want these maps to be used in the 2022 election. They have to be published pretty soon, and they also have to start getting into effect pretty soon, again around March.
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