Demand transparency from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

The Michigan Press Association strongly supports the public’s right to information. If you listen to the headlines, you have no doubt read about issues with how Michigan’s new Independent Redistribution Commission conducted their talks on our state’s new redistribution map. This is a process that occurs every 10 years once the US census results are counted.

This is important because who we can represent in Congress, the Michigan Senate, and Michigan House is determined by the boundaries or districts on this map. If the lines of these districts are changed, it will have an impact on which candidates we can vote on and how we are represented for the next decade.

In the past, this process was carried out by the state legislature, which made it easy for party politics to play a significant role.

But in 2018, 61 percent of Michigan voters backed a constitutional amendment to take that power away from politicians and turn the job over to an independent, 13-person redistribution commission. The election proposal was initiated by widespread concern about the impact of political gerrymandering in Michigan.

On October 27th, the commission entered into a closed session to discuss documents related to voting rights laws. Publication of the documents has since been requested so that the public can understand what information plays a role in the Commission’s decisions. So far the Commission has refused to do this. The memos were titled “Voting Rights Act” and “The History of Discrimination in the State of Michigan and its Influence on Voting”.

Since that meeting, the Commission has put draft cards online and made them available and opened a 45-day public comment period. As an industry dedicated to providing fact-based reporting so that readers can make informed decisions, it seems illogical to us that the public should be asked to comment if they do not get all of the information that will be used to create the maps.

We commend the efforts of Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, for soliciting comments from Attorney General Dana Nessel on these matters late last month. The senators declared that ensuring the constitutionally guaranteed transparency was essential in order to maintain public confidence in the work of the commission, which of course also includes considerations of the fundamentally important role of the voting rights law in the redistribution process. We can no longer agree and hope that Attorney General Nessel accelerates this opinion.

We urge Michigan citizens to urge the Independent Redistricting Commission to immediately release these memos so that Michigan voters can see all of the information the commission used to create the maps we were invited to review.

The Michigan Press Association has consistently promoted the importance of open and transparent government and its importance to the daily lives of Michigan taxpayers. We believe that full transparency in this process is vital as the end result of this commission will affect the citizens of our state for years to come.

Julie Stafford, President

Greenville Daily News

Paul J. Heidbreder, President-elect

Traverse City record eagle

Wes Smith, treasurer

View newspaper group

Peter Bhatia, Vice President

Detroit Free Press

Richard Lamb

Presque Isle Advance

John Bebow

Michigan Bridge

Gem Gopwani

Detroit Free Press

Dave Clark

CM life

Eric Hamp

Houghton Lake Resorter

Sara Scott

Mlive media group

Ban Ibrahim

Detroit Legal News

ML Elrick

Single member

Elaine Myers

C and G newspapers

John Minnis

Great punchline news

John Elchert

Leelanau company

Katie Carey

Consumer energy

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