by Bruce Walker
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Committee (MICRC), charged with redrawing the state’s district boundaries based on 2020 U.S. Census data, has been riddled throughout its inaugural outing with blown deadlines and other missteps.
The most recent issue raising public concerns is the MICRC’s apparent lack of transparency, which was prompted by the committee eliminating four of its nine scheduled October public hearings. That means the committee will comply with the minimum number of five meetings called for in the state constitution, but canceling the four meetings will disappoint voters in Novi, Kalamazoo, Marquette and Warren. The five meetings not cancelled will be held in Detroit, Flint, Gaylord, Grand Rapids and Lansing.
All but two of the MICRC commissioners voted in favor of canceling the four public hearings, reasoning they required more time to work on the redistricting maps. The two commissioners voting to oppose the cancellations were Republicans Erin Wagner and Rhonda Lange.
The committee also voted 7-2 at Friday’s meeting to limit individual public comments to one minute from the previously announced two minutes, angering some who had prepared comments in advance.
“Michigan voters were sold on an independent redistricting commission that would be transparent and accountable to the people as congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn,” MI GOP Communications Director Gustavo Portela tweeted. “Today, the commission decided to limit public comment on redistricting that affects every Michigander. This is not what voters were promised. This commission should hear from every Michigander with concerns about their district.”
The shortening of time for public comments happened after public comments disappeared from the MICRC website following Tuesday’s meeting. MICRC spokesman Edward Woods III told The Center Square the removal of the comments was accidental. He also said the accident was rectified within four hours of its occurrence.
MICRC Commissioner Dustin Witjes also prompted negative reactions on Tuesday. The Democrat stated he was uncertain about what district the committee should include Sarnia, a city in Ontario, Canada.
“This is just the latest in a long line of errors and lies from Democrats on this Committee,” said Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action. “After a year of mapping, each member should have a grasp on the communities in our state. It is hard to trust they will prioritize communities of interest when they do not know what communities are in our state.”
Citing a delay in receiving the 2020 Census data, the MICRC bumped its initial deadline for adopting final maps from Nov. 1 to Nov. 5, and set a deadline for final approval of the maps on Dec. 30.
– – –
Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.