Advance Notice: Briefs

Senate unanimously passes bill banning redistricting commission from closed meetings 

By: - December 2, 2021 1:52 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Senate passed a bill Thursday aiming to prevent the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) from convening behind closed doors. 

Senate Bill 728, introduced by Michigan Senate Oversight Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), bars the MICRC from meeting in closed session “for any purpose.” The bill passed in the Senate unanimously, 34-0. 

The vote on the bill came after the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee convened earlier Thursday to report it out for a vote on the Senate floor. 

On Oct. 27, the MICRC went into a closed meeting to discuss the Voting Rights Act and Michigan’s history of discrimination and voting with the commission’s general counsel and voting rights lawyer. 

The meeting prompted Attorney General Dana Nessel to issue a formal legal opinion last week noting that the closed meeting should have instead been open to the public. 

McBroom, along with state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), requested the AG issue a formal legal opinion on Oct. 28 after bipartisan outrage ensued over the closed session. McBroom said he was “grateful that legal clarity has been given regarding an issue that on its face seemed clear to most observers.”

However, the commission still hasn’t released memos from the Oct. 27 meeting at the advice of lawyers, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

During a meeting in Lansing Thursday, the MICRC voted to not release the memos or the audio from the closed session with a 5-7 vote and a 4-8 vote, respectively.

This is the first redistricting process under the independent commission, which is a result of a 2018 state constitutional measure passed by voters. The 13-member commission consists of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents. Before then, the Legislature was charged with drawing the maps that would then require the governor’s approval. 

The new panel’s maps will go into effect for the 2022 election and will last for 10 years. \

Advance reporter Allison Donahue contributed to this story.

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.