VAAC Activism Impacts New District Maps

This article was submitted by VAAC member Nomi Joyrich of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice who worked tirelessly to ensure fair maps.

From Nomi “I want to thank everyone who made a public comment, testified or sent an email to the MICRC. Every commissioner stated that input from citizens via testimony and public comment heavily informed their decision. I have no doubt that the VAAC community had a major impact on the entire process. This was an amazing example of the power this community has.

VAAC members testifying at an MICRC public meeting.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) has voted and has adopted new maps! It is not surprising that the new maps have been met with mixed reviews. Lawsuits were filed almost immediately after the maps were adopted. Those suing the MICRC claim that there are not enough Voting Rights Acts districts (VRA’s) and that the criteria MICRC used to determine VRA’s was based on bad legal advice. At issue is what percent of non-White voters must be present to comprise a VRA.

This is the space where the interests of partisan fairness, and the desire to have more BIPOC representation, collide. Having BIPOC voters packed into fewer districts would likely have the effect of electing more BIPOC candidates during contested primary elections. However, unpacking BIPOC voters would result in electing more Democrats.

Many people also anticipate lawsuits to be filed from the opponents of Proposition 2 who never wanted the MICRC to be created in the first place.

It is anybody’s guess what the outcome of lawsuits will be, but I think most legal experts expect the maps to proceed as adopted by the MICRC. Incumbents and candidates are certainly proceeding under the assumption that these new maps are here to stay for the next decade.

The specifics of the partisan divide is impossible to predict. This will depend on a myriad of factors including: who relocates in order to run in a new district and how successful each party is at getting their supporters out to vote. So far, it appears that there will be several uncomfortable primaries on both sides of the aisle. There is no doubt that both sides will lose some of their beloved incumbents. The new Congressional map leaves 7 of the 14 incumbents living in a district with another incumbent. It also creates 2 districts where no incumbent currently lives. Michigan’s only Black Congressperson, Brenda Lawrence has already announced that she will not seek reelection. Rashida Tlaib has announced that she plans to move to the new 12th district (where Lawrence lives.) This leaves the 13th district with no incumbent. Several people have already filed and other are eyeing the seat. Democrats Haley Stevens and Andy Levin will now be facing off in a primary in the new 11th District. On the west side, Republicans Bill Huizenga and Michigan’s current longest serving incumbent, Fred Upton now reside in the same district. Moderate Republican, Upton has not yet announced if he plans to run for reelection.

The state maps also leave several incumbents living in the same district. For example, three incumbent Senators now live in the same district. Senator Rosemary Bayer (D) has decided to relocate in order to avoid the three-way primary. She will be running in the W. Bloomfield/Sylvan Lake area. Senators Mallory McMorrow (D) and Marshall Bullock (D) are currently planning to face off in that primary.

On a personal note, I can say that these maps are not as good as I had hoped, but not as bad as I expected. I would have liked to see more partisan fairness and more VRA’s. Prison gerrymandering is not addressed in any of these maps. Most likely, the Congressional map will result in electing 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans The Republicans will probably retain control of Michigan’s state House. And Democrats are predicted to win a very slight majority in Michigan’s state Senate.  Of course, these are only speculations and it is impossible to know for sure.

-Nomi Joyrich, MUUSJN

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