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Michigan Redistricting: Why it Matters

Joey Andrews, 03/01/2022

In 2018 Michigan voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly approved what at the time was Proposal 2, establishing an independent redistricting committee for the upcoming redistricting post census in Michigan. While not the first state to establish such a committee, Michigan's committee was established in a unique way, attempting to learn the lessons both good and bad from other states who had similar setups. Our committee was to be randomly drawn from a pool of applicants to be comprised of 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 5 Independents.

The rules of the commission required at least 2 members from each of those three groups to vote to approve any map, and all map drawing was to be done publicly while taking feedback from ordinary citizens. The commission was to take into account the Voting Rights Act, Communities of Interest, Partisan Fairness, as well as geographic and municipal borders when creating the new districts. Prior to using a commission like this our State House, State Senate, and Congressional districts had always been drawn by the legislature with approval by the Governor. This had resulted in nearly 40 years of Republican gerrymanders, preventing Michigan voters from having their voices heard in state level politics as a result.

The process of drawing these maps took place throughout most of 2021. Each meeting of the commission opened with public comments from Michigan residents about their communities and how their districts should look, involved consultation from experts, extensive data, and constant feedback. While at times chaotic, this process is truly what Democracy in action looks like. Ordinary people, not politicians, drawing districts based on communities of interest and fairness rather than attempting to give one political party an unfair advantage. At the end of the process we ended up with the fairest maps in decades. While in many ways flawed and imperfect, these new maps now give Democrats a shot at majorities in the State House and Senate for the first time in decades. These maps should more fully personify the 1 person 1 vote principle, bringing us to a place where the party that gets the most votes is likely to also win the most seats. In Berrien County this means some big changes.

We now have 3 state house seats that run through our county. The 37th, based around the Niles and Buchanan areas extending into Cass County and Dowagiac, a likely Republican hold. The new 38th district runs along the coastline from New Buffalo to Saugatuck and leans Democratic, presenting a big opportunity for us in Berrien County by unifying the Democratic leaning and trending coastline for the first time ever. Finally the new 39th brings the Coloma/Watervliet area together with most of Van Buren County to create a likely Republican seat.

On the senate side Berrien County is now divided between two Senate districts. The southern seat brings everything south of Lincoln Township together and runs east along the border to coldwater. The other seat unifies the northern parts of Berrien Counnty with most of Van Buren and Allegan and runs up to Kent County just south of the Grand Rapids metro region. Both of these districts are likely Republican holds.

Finally on the Congressional side Berrien County is now split between two congressional districts. With everything south of St. Joseph Township and Royalton extending across the border from New Buffalo to Monroe in the east; a Likely Republican seat bringing a lot of rural areas and old industrial towns together. The northern portions of the county, including the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area is combined with Kalamazoo, Holland, Battle Creek and forms a highly competitive opportunity giving us a good chance at picking up the seat for the first time in over 80 years.


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