Detroiters raise concerns about being ‘silenced’ in redistricting process

Panel moves closer to final draft maps

By: - November 4, 2021 2:54 pm

Protest outside Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission public hearing in Detroit on Oct. 20, 2021 | Max Bruno Lewis

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) is coming up on their self-determined deadline for approving final maps, but some advocates are concerned that the maps still do not fairly represent Detroit. 

The commission has advanced one state Senate map, three congressional maps and two state House maps.

However, there was a dispute among commissioners during a MICRC meeting Tuesday, when Commissioner Brittni Kellom, a Democrat from Detroit, said that the commission was rushing through the map-drawing process for Detroit and wasn’t considering her suggestions. 

During a press conference Thursday, the House Democrats’ Detroit Caucus and the Legislative Black Caucus called on the MICRC to publicly apologize to Kellom. 

“It was vividly apparent to me and everyone else that Commissioner Kellem’s voice, recommendations and suggestions regarding the Detroit redistricting maps are being silenced by the commission, much like the voices of the constituents in Detroit that will be silenced without fair representation from their Detroit communities,” said Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit). 

Last week, the MICRC faced some backlash after hosting a closed meeting to discuss the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with its legal counsel. 

The commission set a deadline to wrap up deliberations by Friday. The commission is anticipating final maps to be approved by Dec. 30, but any revisions by the commission would restart the 45-day comment period for a map.

The current draft maps for the Senate and congressional districts lean in favor of Republicans, but Kellom and Commission Vice Chair MC Rothhorn, a Democrat from Lansing, put together a House map that will include a number of majority-minority districts — something that other proposals have lacked entirely. 

Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) said that is a “good first step.”

“We want to see as many people of color, and Black people, in particular, being represented in our communities as they already are,” said Yancey.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) wrote an open letter to the MICRC on Thursday saying that progressive voting rights advocates are putting too much pressure on the commission and urges the commission to “stay firm.” 

“The way both communities of interest and partisan fairness are being handled is against the letter of the law and the spirit of a fair system,” Wentworth wrote. 

Wentworth argues that the commission is spending too much energy on ensuring partisan fairness and pointed to increased “pressure from Democrat-allied special interest groups” when drawing the maps. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.