The Lansing Area branch of the League of Women Voters will be holding a special town hall this Tuesday, April 13, starting at 7 p.m. to get citizens up to speed on statewide plans for political redistricting in order to prepare them to provide meaningful input on the upcoming redistricting process.
In the past, political districts in Michigan were redrawn every ten years by members of the state legislature. In practice, whichever party was in power tried to cement its power via the redistricting, a process known as “gerrymandering.”
In 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution making “citizens – not legislators or special interests – responsible for drawing district lines,” according to the government webpage for Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
That commission, which will now be responsible for redrawing political district lines in the state, is “composed of 13 randomly selected Michigan registered voters: four who affiliate with the Democratic Party, four who affiliate with the Republican Party, and five who do not affiliate with either major political party.”
The commission’s website explains that redistricting will now reflect “communities of interest,” which “may include, but shall not be limited to, populations that share cultural or historical characteristics or economic interests. Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.” New districts will be geographically contiguous, but will “not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party.”
In terms of Congressional elections, East Lansing – the voting populace of which leans heavily Democratic – has long found itself in a district that has included a majority or near-majority Republican population. Speaking to the issue in 2017 before the statewide vote to amend the state constitution, East Lansing resident Anna Fisher told ELi, “I’ve been frustrated for many years, feeling that my vote doesn’t count.”
Fisher and numerous other East Lansing residents helped with the “Voters Not Politicians” pro-amendment drive in 2017. Now the local League of Women Voters wants to make sure residents have a chance weigh in, in an educated fashion, on the actual redistricting process.
Lansing Area League President Donna Mullins said in an email sent out to local contacts that Tuesday evening’s meeting will be open to all. She said she tried to promote the event on Facebook but Facebook rejected the ad and her appeal, as it often does for ads that Facebook’s unpublished algorithm decides are “political.”
Mullins asked area residents interested in voting rights to blast out information about the town hall to their contacts.
“The gist of the issue is the redistricting commission is now meeting and regularly and will be holding a late May hearing in Lansing,” Mullins wrote. “Testimony from citizens who want their ‘community of interest’ represented in the district maps will be heard at this time. The League is hoping to be able to assist community members in making their needs known to the commission” by holding Tuesday’s educational forum.
Tuesday’s event will take place via Zoom, and those interested must preregister at this link.