Redistricting Commission takes public comment from Mid-Michigan community.

Community member Amador Ybarra offers public comment on a proposed redistricting of his neighborhood, Sept. 23, Plachta Auditorium. Ybarra was one of many community members who offered comment over the online forum that had been set up by the MICRC in order to make their voices heard.

One-by-one people approached the stage of the Plachta Auditorium. Some with speeches they've had prepared for days, others spoke with emotion ranging from celebration to frustration. 

All came with the same purpose, to participate in the future of electoral politics in Michigan.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) met on Sept. 23 in Warriner Hall to discuss the state of the ongoing redistricting process with the region. 

The MICRC has the role of redrawing the congressional and legislative state lines after "Proposal 2" passed on the 2018 ballot. The commission allows the public to be directly involved in the process - taking responsibility away from the partisan state legislature. The 13 commissioners are responsible for drawing political lines for 13 U.S. House, 38 State Senate and 110 State House districts.

The commission's stop at CMU is part of an ongoing, university-exclusive tour to net a wider audience and differing opinions on its proposed maps.

Commissioner Anthony Eid said the university tour allows for a greater emphasis to be placed on the opinions of younger people.

“What we need is more comments from university students,” Eid said “(CMU students) can be a community of interest if enough people let us know about issues that you as a student have.” 

However, Eid said, even with this tour, there is lower student participation than he would like to see. Many of those who offered public comment was from Midland County. In the most recent map proposals, the city of Midland would be in one district but most of its surrounding county would be in another. With this came great concern from residents who expressed their frustrations to the commissioners.

Eid also emphasized the importance of diversity is to this issue and that these tours give the commission a chance to hear from many diverse groups. The commission has been making these efforts to avoid minority voices from possibly being overlooked. 

Kate Ellison, student and redistricting fellow for the Campus Vote Project spoke about her experience following the public comment section. Ellison said she hopes the group listened to her suggestions and will hopefully use her insight to make future decisions. 

Ellison said that these events are paramount as many people on campus are civically unaware of the processes involved in voting and redistricting.

“The more young people (voting) the better,” Ellison said. 

Event Coordinator and Macomb senior Madeline Thomas said it's important to bring these types of events to campus so students can see how to actively participate in democracy. 

“We took out the politicians and gave it to our people," Thomas said. "It really shows the kinds of tools we have in our democracy for us to use.”  

All meetings are open to the public with both online and in-person options. The meetings are streamed and posted to the MICRC Youtube channel