All Sides Criticize Michigan Redistricting Group for Closed-Door Session

by Scott McClallen


After a two-hour delay caused by an emailed death threat, the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Committee (MICRC) shortened public comment to 30 seconds and entered a closed-door session for longer than an hour, which critics from both sides of the political spectrum say violated the Constitution.

MICRC spokesman Edward Woods III said in a statement released Wednesday: “At 1:06 p.m. today, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission received notification of a death threat received through email. We alerted law enforcement and they opened an investigation. As of now, the Commission meeting is suspended until further notice.”

The committee returned and then went in a closed-door session for more than an hour to discuss a secret memo about the Voting Rights Act, without the public or reporters watching, Mlive reporter Lauren Gibbons tweeted. Some said this violated the Constitutional amendment that created the MICRC.

Attorney Steven Liedel tweeted: “MICRC closed session also appears inconsistent with portion of Const 1963, art 4, sec 6(10): ‘The commission shall use technology to provide contemporaneous public observation and meaningful public participation in the redistricting process during all meetings and hearings.'”

The Committee voted 11-2 to adjourn for the day, despite its agenda to deliberate until 8 p.m.

FAIR Maps Executive Director Tony Daunt said the closed-door session wasn’t transparent.

“Voters were promised that handing redistricting over to an “independent commission” would guarantee a fair and transparent process,” Daunt said in a statement. “Sadly, as many of us predicted would happen, we’ve gotten only secrecy and incompetence. There is no reason, let alone statutory authority, that provides this Commission and their attorneys the ability to discuss one of the most important aspects of redistricting – the Voting Rights Act – behind closed doors. They should immediately cease this nonsense and produce the memos they are so desperately trying to hide.”

The Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) also condemned the closed-door session.

“Last week, hundreds of people stood up in Detroit during the MICRC’s first public hearing demanding changes to the maps to ensure fair representation for Black and Brown voters,” MDP Chair Lavora Barnes said in a statement. “We have yet to hear the Commission’s debrief on the public hearings. Instead of having an open and transparent discussion, the Commission retreated behind closed doors to discuss VRA. This process cannot move forward until the Commission addresses what they’ve heard from the public, what was discussed in closed session, and how they plan to fix the maps accordingly.”

MIGOP Communications Director Gustavo Portela called the closed-door session “another gut punch” to Michiganders who voted for a transparent and accountable redistricting process.

In a press conference, Woods told reporters, “I’m not aware of any discussion that took place” while the Commission was behind closed doors.

Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, the group that pushed the petition in 2018 that 61% of voters approved to create the MICRC to redraw political boundaries because people were fed up with in-power politicians, condemned threats of violence.

“Threats of violence against our public servants are outrageous and undermine democracy. Voters Not Politicians condemns Wednesday’s threat against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, and calls for a complete investigation to find whoever was responsible,” Wang said in a statement.

However, VNP called for MICRC to explain its closed-door session, citing the Constitutional amendment that mandates, “The commission shall conduct all of its business at open meetings.”

When asked if the meeting violated the Constitution, MICRC attorney Julianne Pastula said the Commission “received legal advice from their counsel, and that legal advice would not be appropriate to provide in open session, because it’s protected by the attorney-client privilege.”

– – –

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.






Related posts