(The Center Square) – The Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Committee (MICRC) is drawing heat from Democrats, Republicans and the media. Even members of the committee are engaged in criticizing one another.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said the maps were as gerrymandered as when Republicans were in charge.
“Voters supported the concept of an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission so Michigan wouldn’t repeat mistakes of decades past when Republicans gerrymandered districts in their favor – but that’s what could happen if the latest versions of the maps were approved,” Barnes said in a statement. “Fair maps require district lines to be drawn so that one party doesn’t disproportionately benefit either political party.”
Barnes continued: “Given the tools and resources available to the commission, there is no excuse for mapping without partisan data. We ask that the commission run their plans through partisan fairness measures and make sweeping changes to bring the proposed maps to as close as zero political bias as possible. Michiganders deserve fair representation.”
MICRC spokesman Edward Woods III reacted to the press release.
“As the Commission follows its mission to draw fair maps with citizen input through the seven ranked redistricting criteria, we recognize that constructive criticism is a part of the process,” Woods told The Center Square in an email. “Therefore, instead of assessing the validity of who is raising the concern, we evaluate their solutions to fix the proposed draft maps. Tomorrow, the Commission will receive a partisan fairness analysis from Dr. Lisa Handley. Based on her assessment, the Commission will continue its mission to draw fair maps with citizen input through the seven ranked redistricting criteria.”
Barnes’ statement follows weeks of complaints from Republicans that Commission Independents were actually Democrats. Woods previously defended the MICRC, saying some media analysis was unfair since the Constitution doesn’t require vetting of Commissioners. He also stated Michigan lawmakers had the opportunity to strike possible commissioners from the pool.
Meanwhile, a conservative alleged some public comment critical of the commission of Tuesday’s hearing was removed.
“Voters’ accusation that the Redistricting Commission is deleting formal public comments is incredibly concerning,” Executive Director of FAIR Maps Tony Daunt said in a statement. “The Commission remains one of the least transparent public bodies in Michigan. With the numerous and repeated last-minute changes to their agendas, failure to provide documents and maps in a timely fashion and charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to access their emails, to name just a few examples, this commission has made a mockery of the promise of transparency voters were guaranteed in 2018.”
Woods said that labeling maps accidentally removed some public comments while it was trying to create a user-friendly website.
“In the Commission’s continual quest to create a user-friendly website, the mapping contractor labeled the completed versions of proposed draft Congressional maps on the website,” Woods wrote in an email. “This process required reloading the four versions of the proposed draft map to the website. However, labeling the maps inadvertently removed the public comments associated with the completed versions of the proposed draft maps on the website. The mapping contractor resolved the issue more than four hours before the FAIR Maps Press Release.”
Daunt pointed out that Democrats criticized the product of the map process, not the process, he said in a phone interview.
Daunt said the MICRC should have solved these problems in the time since voters approved the measure in 2018.
Michigan Freedom Fund Director Tori Sachs told The Center Square that MICRC Chair Rebecca Szetela on Wednesday recommended that the members break for lunch to do official business behind the scenes and not on livestream.
“This was the same person who pretended to be an Independent to get appointed but it is obviously a Democrat,” Sachs said in an email. “The commission is setting up the current maps to be the most disjointed and gerrymandered in history. You just have to look at what they did yesterday in Kent County with the congressional map, East Lansing and Lansing with the state senate map, and splitting Livonia five ways in the statehouse map.”