Strategic partnerships, education opportunities will empower communities to have a say in map-drawing process
LANSING, Mich.–Voters Not Politicians today announced the launch of its 2021 Communities of Interest Engagement Program to ensure that historically underserved communities have the information and tools they need to strategically and effectively participate in Michigan’s new fair, impartial, and transparent redistricting process.
“Watching Michigan’s first Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission come to life is a dream come true,” said Nancy Wang, Executive Director of Voters Not Politicians. “Voters Not Politicians is committed to ensuring diverse communities of interest across the state have a voice in the process as the nonpartisan, impartial commission undertakes the important task of redrawing our election district maps.”
Voters amended the state Constitution in 2018 to put everyday Michiganders in charge of drawing the voting district lines. Now, an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) is responsible for drawing Michigan’s voting district lines, which will be used for the first time in the August 2, 2022, primary election. An important requirement is that commissioners must consider information collected from communities of interest through public input as they draw the districts. Communities of interest are ranked third in a strict set of mapping criteria.
“The concept of communities of interest is simple: To put people at the center of the redistricting process, we need to hear directly from communities about their shared interests to help inform the commissions’ decision making in the mapping process,” said Wang. “We’re excited to learn more about communities across the state and how Michiganders want to be represented. Historically, lawmakers and lobbyists drawing lines in secret have focused on voters’ party affiliation, not the interests of the community as a whole. Now, voters will choose their politicians, not the other way around.”
According to the constitutional amendment, “Districts shall reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest. Communities of interest may include, but shall not be limited to, populations that share cultural or historical characteristics or economic interests. Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.”
Voters Not Politicians will work directly with a number of communities of interest, particularly with traditionally underrepresented communities. The organization has received grants from the Joyce Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Kresge Foundation and the 2011 California Citizens Redistricting Commission to expand work with communities of interest. As of now, VNP is working with the following organizations as partners that will receive direct support to plan, finalize, and submit testimony to the ICRC:
- Oakland Forward
- Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA)
- Latino Leaders for the Enhancement of Advocacy and Development (LLEAD)
- Action of Greater Lansing
- Ezekiel Project
- Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Inc. (LA SED)
- Michigan Environmental Council (MEC)
- United Tribes
Voters Not Politicians will also host online webinars for communities and organizations to learn more about the community mapping process. The organization recently launched www.votersnotpoliticians.com/coi to provide a number of resources organizations can use to learn more about the process and begin to develop, finalize, and submit testimony. Materials are currently being translated to reach a broader population. Communities of interest are also invited to request a presentation from a trained VNP volunteer.
Many online tools are available for communities of interest to map their community, and VNP has partnered with Princeton Gerrymandering Project to empower groups to use Representable, a user-friendly, data-driven, community-focused platform that provides a way to visually represent communities of interest across the state of Michigan. The platform can export maps in a variety of formats for use by the ICRC and is available in English, Spanish, and Arabic.
To kick off the public education effort, VNP is partnering with the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) and Detroit Public TV to host “The next big thing: Redistricting in Michigan and the role of communities of interest” at 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021. Members of the press and the general public can learn more and register for the webinar at http://myumi.ch/jxog9.
Voters Not Politicians is a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to strengthen democracy by engaging people across Michigan in effective citizen action. Learn more at www.votersnotpoliticians.com.