LANSING, Mich. (CBS Detroit/AP) — Michigan's new redistricting commission approved congressional and legislative maps Tuesday, ones that are fairer to Democrats than when the process was controlled by the Republican-led Legislature for two decades.
In landmark votes, eight of 13 members of the panel created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment backed the 13-district congressional plan known as "Chestnut," and nine supported the "Linden" Senate map. The state is losing a U.S. House seat following the 2020 census.
"Today Michigan's first Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted across party lines to adopt new district maps for our state, completing the most open, independent and citizen-led redistricting process in Michigan history," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement. "The new maps are the culmination of years of work, driven by millions of Michiganders from all walks of life. They advocated fiercely to give citizens the power to draw their own district lines and made their voices heard throughout the entire process.
"Our democracy is stronger thanks to Michigan citizens' engagement, leadership and vision for a fair, inclusive and transparent process that puts voters above politics and ends gerrymandering in Michigan once and for all."
Commissioner Anthony Eid, who affiliates with neither major party, called the congressional map "a compromise between all of the plans that we have."
There could be 7-6 splits in favor of either party if it is competitive statewide, with at least three competitive seats in the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint/Saginaw areas.
Under the current congressional map, Republicans would win an extra 11.9% of seats in a hypothetical tied election. Their edge drops to 4.3% under the new plan based on an analysis of 2016, 2018 and 2020 election data, according to PlanScore, a project of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
The battle for the majority in the state Senate, where the GOP has a 22-16 edge due to partisan gerrymandering despite Democrat Gretchen Whitmer winning the governorship by nearly 10 points in 2018, will become much more competitive. The pro-Republican partisan bias declines from 15.2% to 2.8%, creating the potential for a 19-19 split in a close statewide environment. The GOP has controlled the chamber for nearly 40 years.
The map for the state House, where Republicans have a 58-52 advantage, also will be fairer to Democrats.
The map may face a legal challenge from Black Democrats because the state would no longer have two majority-minority seats in and around Detroit. The commission's attorneys say the federal Voting Rights Act requires that African American voters have an opportunity to elect their candidates of choice, not that there be districts where Blacks comprise more than 50% of the voting-age population. They account for about 44% of the population in both new seats.
Jonathan Kinloch, chair of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization, issued a statement before the vote calling the proposed U.S. House maps up for consideration a "serious step backward, limiting the voice of African Americans and that is unacceptable."
The final vote led incumbent House members to announce their plans.
Second-term Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin will run for the 11th District in Oakland County
Fifth-term Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint will run for the 8th District in the Flint and Saginaw areas, which resembles his current seat. Second-term Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin will run for the 7th District in the Lansing area, which includes part of her current district.
Democratic state Rep. Shri Thanedar, a former gubernatorial candidate, said he will spend at least $5 million of his money to run for the 13th District, which includes much of Detroit. It is currently represented by second-term Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
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