(The Center Square) – The group that pushed the petition for the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Committee (MICRC) isn’t happy with some of the committee’s maps.
In a letter to the MICRC, Voters Not Politicians (VNP) executive director Nancy Wang says the MICRC's drafts "can do much better.” Wang said millions of possible plans for Michigan comply with the Voting Rights Act, respect Communities of Interest, and achieve partisan fairness. Wang encouraged them to draw new maps.
“These examples show that the MICRC's drafts can do much better,” Wang wrote. “For the public's sake, I hope that means you will strive to achieve the levels they show you can meet, rather than settle for something that may or may not be legally defensible.”
MICRC spokesman Edward Woods III responded that they are drawing fair maps.
“The MICRC continues the process of drawing fair maps with citizen input through the seven ranked redistricting criteria,” Woods wrote in an email to The Center Square. “To finish our work, we continue to welcome and consider public comments from individuals and organizations. As an Independent body, instead of assessing or prioritizing the validity of who is raising the concern, we consider all public comments to ensure fair maps utilizing the seven ranked redistricting criteria. The MICRC will continue to honor its role and responsibilities given to us by Michigan residents in drawing fair maps.”
FAIR Maps Director Tony Daunt urged the MICRC to stand up to outside influence.
“The Democrat interest groups that created this amendment specifically designed it to lack any objective standards, opting for nebulous terms like ‘communities of interest’ and ‘partisan fairness,’” Daunt said in a statement. “Now that this focus on communities of interest hasn’t given them the comfortable Democrat majorities that they so desperately want, they’re panicking and telling the commission to simply ignore the public. The commission is betraying voters to aid left-wing bullies who want to let politicians pick their voters – not the other way around. Voters were promised better, and it’s time for the Commission to deliver.”
A third party is also unhappy with the MICRC. Progress Michigan said the MICRC charged them $60,000 for public records requests of communications between commissioners and outside groups, but eventually dropped to $30,000 after a missed deadline.
The records request follows the MICRC hiring a law firm that has Republican ties.
“We’ve seen these tactics used before to dissuade the public from accessing what should be publicly available information but usually by shady public officials like Bill Schuette, not a new commission founded on bringing transparency to the process of redistricting,” Progress Michigan Director Lonnie Scott said in a statement in which he referenced Michigan's former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate. “As they head into the final stretches of drawing Michigan’s new maps, we strongly urge the Commission to waive these fees and fully open their process and records to the people of Michigan. If they refuse they should know that Progress Michigan will not be deterred in their quest for transparency from this Commission and will use all legal remedies available to make sure the public has access to these records.”
Woods pushed back, saying the committee already operates transparently.
“The MICRC continues to operate openly and transparently,” Woods wrote. “Since the beginning, all our meetings have been live-streamed and still available through our Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. In following the Michigan Compiled Laws regarding FOIA requests, we also continue to operate openly and transparently.”
In 2018, Michigan voters were fed up with in-power politicians drawing their own districts to pick voters instead of vice versa in a process shrouded in secrecy to protect incumbents. As a result, 61% of voters in the state approved a ballot proposal that established an independent citizen’s redistricting committee to champion transparency.