You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Michigan redistricting commission adopts new state legislative maps

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 1/3/2022 Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press
Commissioner Douglas J. Clark, Jr. hands a folder to Commissioner Anthony Eid during public comments at the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting to vote on new congressional and legislative districts for the next decade in Lansing on Dec. 28, 2021. © Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press Commissioner Douglas J. Clark, Jr. hands a folder to Commissioner Anthony Eid during public comments at the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting to vote on new congressional and legislative districts for the next decade in Lansing on Dec. 28, 2021.

Michigan's redistricting commission approved new state legislative districts Tuesday that could shape the balance of political power in Lansing for years to come.

For the state Senate, the commission voted for its "Linden" map, with nine commissioners backing the new map. Two Republicans, two Democrats and five independent commissioners voted in favor of the plan. Republican commissioners Rhonda Lange and Erin Wagner and Democratic commissioners Brittni Kellom and Juanita Curry favored different plans. 

For the state House, the commission voted for its "Hickory" map, with 11 commissioners supporting the plan. Lange and Wagner preferred different plans.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Commissioners who supported the new maps cited public comments that favored the final redistricting plans compared to the alternative options on the table. But even among the commissioners who backed the new districts, some expressed reservations, voicing particular concerns about the state House maps.

"Are they perfect? No, they’re not perfect," said independent commissioner Steve Lett during a press conference after the commission adopted new congressional and state legislative districts. But the commission listened to public feedback throughout the process, and the end result reflects that, he said. 

"We did the best job we could," Republican commissioner Cynthia Orton agreed.

The state Senate map gives Democrats their best shot in years to win a majority in the state Legislature's upper chamber.

It still favors Republicans, according to three out of the four measures of partisan fairness used by the commission based on election results from the past decade. A fourth measure indicates Democratic candidates would have an advantage under the new map. 

The state House map similarly chips away at Republican advantage in the current map, but unlike the state Senate map it still favors Republicans, according to all four measures of partisan fairness used by the commission.

Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano said that it could take multiple election cycles to shake up political dynamics in the state. 

A delayed redistricting cycle has truncated the timeline for candidates to campaign in the districts they plan to run in. 

"The real test of these maps is when everyone knows what the borders are years ahead of time," DiSano said. 

The possibility of litigation might lead to further changes to the maps depending on how a court would weigh a challenge. The commission's approach to complying with the Voting Rights Act – the federal law that prohibits racially discriminatory districts that deny minority voters an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates – has emerged as a key flashpoint.

Unlike the current map, there is no majority-Black district in the state Senate map adopted by the commission, while the state House map reduces the number of majority-Black districts in place today. 

Current and former state lawmakers from Detroit and civil rights leaders are vehemently opposed to how the new district lines reduce the share of Black voters. They argue that the elimination of majority-Black districts disenfranchises Black voters. During a Tuesday press conference, they made a last-ditch effort to persuade the commission to adjust its maps before the final vote. That attempt failed when commissioners voted down a motion Tuesday to go back to the drawing board.

The commission's voting rights lawyer has argued that the commission's approach to mapping the city could increase Black voters' representation by spreading them out across more districts. Commissioners expressed confidence Tuesday night after the votes that their maps can withstand a voting rights lawsuit against the group but noted they encountered some challenges predicting how Black-preferred candidates fare in the new districts based on past election data.


Video: Michigan Democrats announce legislation to restrict the capacity of ammunition magazines (Detroit Free Press)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

More: Michigan's redistricting commission adopts final congressional map for the next decade

More: Opinion: Redistricting commissioners are honoring their pledge to put voters first

Michigan's new state Senate map

The 38 state Senate districts adopted by the commission significantly reduce the Republican advantage compared to the GOP-drawn lines signed into law in 2011.

Republicans have held the majority in the chamber since 1984, a status the party maintained even after elections in which Democratic candidates won more votes statewide than Republican candidates.  

The state Senate map adopted by the commission brings about major changes to the district lines currently in place. None of the districts in place today pair communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, but the commission’s map would combine parts of the tri-county area that are currently divided. The new map also pairs Bay City, Midland and Saginaw in the same district while the current lines separate the tri-cities into three districts. 

But the map creates some new divides of its own. It splits Lansing from East Lansing and divides Democratic stronghold Ann Arbor in half. 

The map appears to create 19 solidly Democratic districts, 16 solidly Republican districts, one Republican-leaning district and two toss-up districts, according to election results from the past decade.

Unlike the current map, there is no majority-Black district in the map adopted by the commission. The map includes several districts where the voting age population is at least 40% Black. 

Among the key features of the new map:

  • Detroit districts cross 8 Mile: The map brings major changes to Detroit. Currently no state Senate district in the city crosses north of 8 Mile. But the new map would change that by pairing Detroit neighborhoods with suburban communities in Oakland and Macomb counties. One district includes Detroit’s Palmer Park and extends north to Birmingham. Another district pairs Brightmoor with Farmington and a third starts in Belle Isle and extends all the way north to Madison Heights. Another extends north from Detroit’s east side and includes the eastern halves of Warren and Sterling Heights. 
  • Southeast Oakland divided: The map breaks up southeast Oakland County, placing Hazel Park and Madison Heights with a chunk of Warren in a district that includes Hamtramck and Highland Park along with some east side Detroit neighborhoods. Ferndale, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Berkley and Birmingham are in the district that includes Palmer Park, Palmer Woods and Sherwood Forest. 
  • Southfield and Pontiac combined: One district starts just south of 8 Mile and extends north through Southfield all the way to Pontiac to pair the two majority-Black cities that are currently separated into two state Senate districts today. 
  • New Troy-Sterling Heights district: The western half of Sterling Heights is paired with Troy, Rochester and Rochester Hills. The current map confines Sterling Heights to Macomb County. 
  • Grosse Pointes separated from Detroit: Unlike the current state Senate map that groups the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods with Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, the new map places the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods in a district that includes St. Clair Shores and extends north to New Baltimore. 
  • Grand Rapids divided in half: The map also splits Grand Rapids in half. The city is currently encompassed in a single state Senate district. But in the new map, the southern part of Grand Rapids is now paired with East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grandville and the northern part of Grand Rapids extends north to Rockford and west to Coopersville. 
  • Ann Arbor split in two: The map splits Ann Arbor with the northern and southern halves falling into two long and skinny districts that extend west across Washtenaw and Jackson counties.
  • Lansing no longer paired with East Lansing: The new map splits East Lansing and Lansing into separate districts. The two cities are currently together in the same state Senate district. 
  • Flint goes with Grand Blanc: The map places Flint and Grand Blanc in the same state Senate district. The two cities are currently divided into separate districts. 
  • A new tri-cities district: Bay City, Midland and Saginaw are in the same state Senate district. The map in place over the past decade divided the tri-cities into three separate districts. 
  • Dearborn, Dearborn Heights come together: The current map splits Dearborn and Dearborn Heights into separate districts. The two cities are now together in a district that includes a small chunk of Allen Park and west side Detroit neighborhoods. 
  • Livonia separated into two districts: Livonia is currently kept whole in a district that includes Canton and Plymouth. But Livonia is now split in two with the southwestern part of the city placed in a district that includes Canton, Garden City, Inkster and Westland. The rest of Livonia is in a district that includes Farmington, a chunk of Farmington Hills, Redford and some west side Detroit neighborhoods. 

Michigan's new state House map

Republicans have held a majority in the state House for the past decade, maintaining legislative control even when Democratic candidates amassed mores votes across the state than Republican candidates. 

The new House map also reduces the number of majority-Black state House districts currently in place, a move that has concerned civil rights advocates in the state who worry the map threatens to diminish Black voters' representation in Lansing.

The House map includes 17 districts where Black residents make up at least 35% of the voting age population, including 13 where they account for at least 40% of that population and seven where they constitute a majority. The current map in place has 11 majority-Black districts. 

The new map appears to create 41 solidly Democratic districts, 46 solidly Republican districts, nine Democratic-leaning districts, two Republican-leaning districts and 12 toss-up districts. 

The map makes many changes to the lines currently in place, among them: 

  • Detroit districts cross 8 Mile: None of the state House districts that currently run through Detroit cross 8 Mile road, but the new map creates long, skinny districts that emanate from the city’s neighborhoods and extend north to include surrounding suburban communities. West side neighborhoods are spread out across districts that extend up to Birmingham and Royal Oak. Neighborhoods on the city’s east side go up to Warren, Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores. 
  • Southeast Oakland County cities splintered: The new Oakland County-Detroit pairings divide cities in southeast Oakland County currently kept intact. Berkley, Ferndale and Madison Heights are split in two while Birmingham and Oak Park are split in three and Royal Oak in four. 
  • New pairings in the Grand Rapids area: East Grand Rapids is now paired with Kentwood and the northwest part of Grand Rapids is now together with Walker while the northeast part of the city now extends east to include Ada Township. 
  • Ann Arbor split four ways: The current map divides Ann Arbor in half but the new map splits it four ways into three districts that extend west across Washtenaw County and one that extends northeast to Plymouth and Northville townships all the way to South Lyon. 
  • Lansing newly configured: Lansing is divided into separate districts by Grand River with the northern part of the city placed in a district that includes parts of Clinton and Eaton counties and the southern part of the city extending down to Delhi Charter Township.
  • Flint encompassed in a single state House district: Flint is currently split into two separate districts but the new map has the city entirely encompassed in a single state Senate district. 
  • Dearborn, Dearborn Heights combined: The new district pairs a western portion of Dearborn with Dearborn Heights. The two are currently separated in the state House. The remainder of Dearborn now goes with west side Detroit neighborhoods and a portion of Melvindale in one district. 
  • Livonia split three ways: Almost all of Livonia is currently encompassed in a single state House district. The new map splits the city in three. Two new districts in the city extend east to include Redford and some Detroit neighborhoods while the third district extends west to include Plymouth and a chunk of Northville.
  • Farmington and Farmington Hills separated: The two cities are currently together in one state House district. The new map splits Farmington in two and Farmington Hills in three. A portion of the two cities is now paired with Southfield while another is paired with Novi and Northville. 
  • New district along shore of Lake Michigan: The map creates a new shoreline district along Lake Michigan that starts at the state’s southern border and extends north to Saugatuck. 

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

Become a subscriber.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan redistricting commission adopts new state legislative maps

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon