Princeton Gerrymandering Project grades Michigan’s redistricting maps

No map was rated below a ‘C’

By: - October 15, 2021 11:57 am

Census-related timeline delays for redistricting by state | Princeton Gerrymandering Project

A national gerrymandering project from Princeton University has graded Michigan’s 10 preliminary district maps headed for public comment after they were approved this week by the state’s independent citizens panel.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) on Monday gave the greenlight to four maps redrawing the state’s congressional districts and three apiece for the state House and state Senate.  The new lines will go into effect for the 2022 elections 60 days after their publication, and be in effect for the next 10 years.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s grading scale rates all but one of the congressional maps as an “A,” all three of the state House maps with a “C” and two out of three state Senate maps as an “A.” The remaining maps received a “B” rating; none received the lowest score of an “F.”

The maps are by no means the finished products, as the commissioners continue to tweak maps to achieve as much partisan fairness and equal voting rights compliance as possible.

They will, however, be subject to public comment during five public hearings throughout October. The panel had initially planned to hold twice that number of public hearings after drafting the maps, but cut back to give themselves more time to finish them while simultaneously shortening public comment time from two minutes to one minute per person, leading to criticism from voting rights advocates.

According to the project, Michigan is one of eight states attempting to achieve fairer districts via an independent commission. It is also one of four states that Princeton describes as having a “severe” alert level for census-related timeline delays.

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The 13-member panel, composed of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents, was formed after voters passed a 2018 state constitutional measure. Prior to that, the Legislature was in charge of redistricting, with the governor signing off on maps. 

The Michigan Constitution requires that the panel adopt its final maps by Nov. 1., but a delay in census data earlier this year prompted the commission to push that deadline to Nov. 5.

If all goes smoothly, final maps would be approved by Dec. 30, but any revisions by the commission would restart the 45-day comment period for a map. The MICRC is also bracing for lawsuits that will likely come after the redistricting process is over.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project graded each map on three main metrics of “partisan fairness,” “competitiveness” and “geographic features.” The program also breaks each district down by minority composition.

An “A” grade means the map performs well in a category. “B” is better than average for the category, but bias still exists; “C” is average for the category and could have been better, but also could have been worse. An “F” grade means it performs poorly for the category and could be much better.

In addition to the 10 maps approved Monday, the project also analyzed independent commissioner Anthony Eid’s own congressional map. More maps are likely to be proposed by individual commissioners as the process moves forward.

None of the analyzed state House maps received an overall grade higher than a C. For the congressional and state Senate maps, all but one in each category received an A grade.

The maps are graded as follows:

Congressional maps

Eid map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
    • Similarly competitive relative to other maps that could have been drawn
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (14)
“Juniper” congressional district map

“Juniper” map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (13)

“Birch” map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (13)

“Maple” map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (13)

“Apple” map overall grade: B

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: F
    • Non-compact districts; more county splits than typical (17)

State House maps

“Oak” map overall grade: C

  • Partisan fairness: B
    • Slight Democratic advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: F
    • Non-compact districts; more county splits than typical (46)
“Oak” state House district map

“Pine” map overall grade: C

  • Partisan fairness: B
    • Slight Democratic advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: F
    • Non-compact districts; more county splits than typical (47)

“Peach” map overall grade: C

  • Partisan fairness: B
    • Slight Democratic advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: F
    • Non-compact districts; more county splits than typical (47)

State Senate maps

“Elm” map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Non-compact districts; more county splits than typical (21)
“Elm” state Senate district map

“Spruce” map overall grade: A

  • Partisan fairness: A
    • No advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (21)

“Cherry” map overall grade: B

  • Partisan fairness: B
    • Slight Democratic advantage
  • Competitiveness: C
  • Geographic features: C
    • Compact districts; more county splits than typical (25)

The end of the redistricting process will culminate in a new final map for Michigan’s U.S. House, state House and state Senate.

Each of those three maps must receive a majority vote of the commission (at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two independents on the panel). In the event that no map achieves this majority vote, each commissioner could submit their own plan, then rank those plans in order of preference.

If the highest ranked plan succeeds and meets certain voting criteria, it would be adopted. If two are tied for highest ranked, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson would deliver a random tiebreaker vote.

If the ranked plan route falls through, Benson would randomly select a final plan.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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