LANSING, Mich. — The next decade could look very different in West Michigan. The state redistricting committee met on Monday to address the 10 draft maps they've created so far.
West Michigan could be facing major changes, especially for the Republican party. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group of 13 Michiganders, submitted 10 draft maps for Michigan district lines. The proposals were collaboratively drawn by the commission of four Democrats, four Republicans and five members who affiliate with neither major party. Four congressional, three for the senate and three for the house.
After seven weeks of mapping, Michigan's new redistricting commission is starting to vote on much-anticipated draft congressional and legislative plans.
The maps, while not final and subject to future revisions, will give early indications of the panel's approach after voters empowered it — and not lawmakers — to draw lines to minimize partisan gerrymandering. The commission is under a crunch because of an unprecedented four-month-plus delay in census data needed for the once-a-decade redistricting process.
Once multiple drafts of congressional and legislative maps are approved in coming days, the public will be able to give feedback at five hearings.
West MI Congressional Maps
14 congressional districts may become 13 due to slow population growth, according to the committee.
Representatives Fred Upton of Kalamazoo and Bill Huizenga of Holland, both Republicans, may soon be fighting for one seat. This is because Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo may become one congressional district.
West MI State Senate
Ottawa County could go from having one single Senate district to three, splitting up the county.
"People want counties to be whole and not split up," Commissioner Doug Clark said. "Mathematically, that doesn't work throughout the entire state."
Grand Rapids may be divided up into numerous districts. Battle Creek and Kalamazoo would remain separate districts.
West MI State House
The Grand Rapids-based district could now include Kalamazoo.
An expert has told Michigan's redistricting commission that some of its draft congressional maps would be fairer to Democrats than current gerrymandered seats but legislative districts — especially in the House — would still favor Republicans.
Lisa Handley, a consultant who was hired to advise the 13-member panel, provided it with partisan-fairness data Friday.
The commission, which voters empowered to draw district lines instead of partisan lawmakers, is expected to make changes before voting on draft proposals.
All in all, the draft State Senate maps slightly favor Republicans. The House maps could go either way. This Friday, the commission will be making its way to downtown Grand Rapids to hear public comment. It starts on Friday, Oct. 22, from 1-3:30 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. at the DeVos Place Steelcase Ballroom at 303 Monroe Ave. NW.
Anyone can provide their thoughts to the commission by providing written testimony, by drawing your own districting plan (partial or whole) or by submitting a community of interest map.
The schedule calls for drafting to begin Friday and end Oct. 8, when the 13-member panel of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents will publish draft maps — potentially multiple options — for review. Then nine public hearings will be held Oct. 11-28.
After six days of deliberations, the commission will vote on proposed maps Nov. 5. It could post multiple maps per district type. The recommendation is for no more than two each for Congress, the State Senate and state House, executive director Suann Hammersmith said.
A 45-day public comment period will start Nov. 14. The panel could finalize district lines as early as Dec. 30, though the 45-day period would restart if it makes revisions.
The Dec. 30 target is two months after a Nov. 1 deadline in the state constitution, which could spark lawsuits.
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