GUEST COLUMN: Engage yourself in Michigan's redistricting process

Courtesy Photo | Katie Ellison

On Nov. 6, 2018, the overwhelming majority of Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, which sought to end gerrymandering by creating what we now know as the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). 

We amended our state’s constitution to create a fair and transparent process where everyday folks not only participate in, but facilitate the drawing of the mitten’s state Senate, state House, and Congressional district maps.

We have waited three years. The MICRC is finally formed and meeting with sample maps being drawn and released now. The drawing of these lines is what this redistricting process is focused on, and the maps that are drawn now will not be redrawn for another decade. 

That means that every single election in Michigan for the next ten years is fundamentally affected by this process.

The redistricting process used to be kept behind closed doors and now it is our opportunity to provide as much public attention to it as possible. When communities are not heard by the commission, our maps are not drawn fairly.

It's so vital that the MICRC and all Michiganders understand that our state has so much potential to change a horrifyingly gerrymandered state. A story in Bridge Magazine reported our state is one of the worst. The state of Michigan Senate maps in particular have more partisan bias than 99.7 percent of all state maps across the entire country. 

While redistricting will always be political, it should not be partisan. Our state has the opportunity to correct itself. 

As a student organizer and redistricting fellow with the nonpartisan organization Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project, I have seen what can happen when communities are unable to take their future into their own hands. 

While I am a student at Central Michigan University, I am originally from Midland. It's is an area of the state that is heavily gerrymandered and has lacked responsive representation for as long as I can remember. I want to make sure that no one else in our state has to deal with representatives that can feel out of touch with the needs of an area or a community. 

As a redistricting fellow, I have now testified twice before the MICRC. During my first testimony, I advocated for Michigan campus communities not to be gerrymandered and, during my second testimony, I responded to the MICRC’s many map proposals that split many of our campus communities into two, three, and even four different districts.

Organizing produces results. 

We saw it with the 2020 election – when voter turnout was spurred by empowered young people. I hope we are able to see this now with redistricting as the MICRC took public comments over the last few months, and is now moving to finalize maps. 

We need to continue providing input to the MICRC, advocating for our communities and emphasizing the need to keep them together.

Overall, the redistricting process is one that is the foundation of our state's democracy. By improving this process, hopefully, we can strengthen the connection between our community and our representative leaders. This will look like a more fair and just state, a democracy that works better, and empowered communities. 

Our voices are essential to making that happen in the end.

Katie Ellison is a junior majoring in political science and minoring in women & gender studies at Central Michigan University. She is also a redistricting fellow with Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.