Local government officials offer mixed criticism of Michigan’s new redistricting approach

Michigan local officials have delivered a mixed verdict on the state’s new constitutional approach to redrawing electoral maps in an effort to reduce gerrymandering and promote fairer elections.

Only 24% of local officials are satisfied with the work of Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by a 2018 state constitutional amendment approved by voters to remove redistricting from the hands of the Legislature. The 2022 elections will be the first in which the districts drawn by the commission will be contested. Another 22% of local leaders are dissatisfied, a third (33%) are neutral and 20% are not sure what they think of the new approach.

These were among the key findings of the Michigan Public Policy Survey conducted by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) last spring, just after the final maps were approved.

If they are largely aware of the work of redesigning the electoral maps of the State (81%),

local government leaders who have paid attention to the commission are more likely to be critical than supportive of its performance on various elements. For example, 28% rate the transparency of the committee’s work as “good” or “excellent”, compared to 43% who rate it as “fair” or “poor”.

Ratings are similar across a range of assessments, including opportunities for public engagement, valuing public input, ensuring no unfair advantage for political parties or particular candidates, and defining districts that protect “communities of interest,” reflect the limitations of local governments, are compact, and follow voting rights law protections for minority voters.

Local leaders’ satisfaction with the final maps adopted by the commission is also mixed for the Congressional maps (22% satisfied versus 21% dissatisfied), the Michigan State Senate maps (21% satisfied versus 23 % dissatisfied) and State House cards (22% satisfied vs. 25% dissatisfied). Again, around a third of respondents are neutral regarding the final cards and another fifth said “don’t know”.

A disparity exists between the opinions of local government leaders and the general population of Michigan on the state’s new approach to redistricting. After the redistricting process is complete and new maps are passed, local leaders saying the commission is a better approach to redistricting fell to 39%, although only 19% think it’s a worse approach than leaving the legislature manage redistricting. By contrast, among Michigan residents familiar with the commission, 53% think it’s a better approach than asking the legislature to redraw the maps.

Local leaders assessed how the change affected their work. One agreed with the goals and process, but wished the commission could do more to keep counties and smaller communities in the same district to reduce election complexity. Another said he was pleased with the efforts of the commission, whose leader noted that it was an improvement over the district lines drawn by either party that controlled the Assembly legislative.

“The creation of the commission was intended to be a major shift in an attempt to remove partisan politics from the drawing of electoral lines,” said Debra Horner, the inquiry’s program manager. “There were hiccups in the process, but the final assessment will be how representative the new legislative and congressional delegations will be of voters.”

Tom Ivacko, executive director of CLOSUP, said the fact that so many local officials have observed the process and are familiar with it is almost as important as their attitude towards it.

“The ambivalent or even negative views of local leaders are perhaps unsurprising, since new constitutional language places the protection of local government boundaries low on the priority list when developing new maps. Nonetheless, their input will help the next iteration of the MICRC as it redraws the maps again after the 2030 census,” he said. “The lessons from Michigan will certainly reverberate in other parts of the country where discussions of gerrymandering have taken place.”

After the November 8 election, CLOSUP will host an event on November 30 to examine how this new approach has fared this fall, including its impacts on races and election results, and how it compares to experiences in other countries. other states.

“Approved, and now voted – what we learned after the first election under Michigan’s new redistricting process,” will feature Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research of Political Science at the Michigan State University, and panelists Moon Duchin of Tufts University MGMG Redistricting Lab, Zach Gorchow, editor and publisher of Gongwer News Service, and Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, the grassroots group that has spearheaded efforts to change Michigan’s approach to redistricting.

The Michigan Public Policy Survey represents 1,856 general purpose local governments in Michigan, conducted by CLOSUP since 2009. Respondents include city, township, village, and county officials. The survey is being conducted with the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association.

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