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MI Redistricting Commission - A Cautionary Tale for the Rest of the Country?


By Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub | January 22, 2024


Years of gerrymandering lawsuits heard in courts around the nation led the citizens of Michigan to pass a constitutional proposal to give citizens the right to draw voting district maps. The premise was that districting maps (that had been drawn by state legislators) would be drawn without partisanship. The premise was that independent citizens could be non-partisan.


Perhaps the wool was pulled over the eyes of those who voted for this proposal. Perhaps we voters will learn to be careful how we vote.


After the proposal passed in 2018 mandating that a citizens’ group be constitutionally charged with this task, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson formed 2020 the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. MICRC is comprised of 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 5 Neutrals (Independents).


After 3 years We the People can ask, “How is this working?” Adam Kincaid, President and Executive Director of Fair Lines America Fair Lines America, stated at a MFE meeting on Thursday, January 18:


“Michigan’s redistricting commission has become a cautionary tale for the rest of the country.” 

The newly formed commission was tasked with dividing the state into voting districts of equal population; that were geographically contiguous; that kept communities of interest intact; that gave no disproportionate advantage to any political party; that showed no favor or disfavor to an incumbent elected officials or candidate; that kept into consideration county, township and city boundaries; and that were reasonably compact.


After the maps were drawn, nineteen African-American Detroiters who lived in 13 different Michigan House and Senate districts sued Michigan’s Secretary of State. The basis of their lawsuit was a claim that the districts were drawn predominantly on the basis of race and were, therefore, discriminatory.


The three-judge court reviewed the 10,000 pages of transcripts from MICRC meetings and determined that the court record “shows overwhelmingly – indeed, inescapably – that the Commission drew the boundaries predominantly on the basis of race . . . in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”


The court found “that the Commission subordinated all other redistricting criteria to target black voting percentages,” that the Commission “subordinated ‘partisan fairness,’ and ‘preservation of communities of interest.’ The court found that “the record here is almost oceanic in its direct evidence of intent.” [that boundaries were drawn on the basis of race] When the Commission drew boundaries based upon race, the other criteria suffered.


“The commission divided cities, counties, and communities across Michigan to enact brazenly partisan maps that a federal court found disenfranchised minority voters,” Adam Kincaid explained.

Next week the commission meets in person to draw new maps as the court ordered that no further elections can be held in these districts until new maps are drawn. We the People can attend. Public comment is permitted and welcomed. We the People need to speak about districting maps, how the law requires the Commission to take into account partisan fairness, preservation of communities of interest, respect for township, city, and county boundaries.


While the pressure and mandate from the lawsuit mounts, the pressure from within also mounts.


Adam Kincaid spoke to this, also: “This commission’s myriad problems vindicate all those who warned about its enactment.”

Internal Problem #1:


Two commissioners filed with the Secretary of State and then presented to the other eleven commissioners a document to remove commissioner Anthony Eid for a purported abuse of his position by drawing “districts to benefit at least two of his friends who were candidates running for office.” The document requests that the Commission “declare Commissioner Anthony Eid’s position as Commissioner vacant due to Mr. Eid’s substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office.” (First Notice Under Subsection 6(3)(3) of Article 4 of the Michigan Constitution to Declare Vacant the Seat of Commissioner Anthony Eid filed on December 14, 2023, with the Secretary of State and presented to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in January 2024).


The 12-page notice showed pictures of text messages and Facebook pages the commissioners are relying on as evidence, as well as their first-hand experiences in meetings with Eid. The two commissioners who filed the document, Rebecca Szetela (D) and Rhonda Lange (R), wrote, “Mr. Eid pushed for the MICRC to restructure the Orchard Lake-area district to include Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake, and portions of West Bloomfield together. Mr. Eid’s comments were in opposition to public comments received on this topic.”


The Commission has set a hearing date, February 8, at which they’ll consider Eid’s removal. Eid has apparently hired an attorney to represent him, but the two commissioners have not.


It will take a “yay” vote from ten Commissioners to remove Eid; Eid is not permitted to vote.


But the three-judge court in the Federal lawsuit case wrote specifically of Eid: “The year before Eid joined the Commission – another public entity had formally sanctioned Eid for dishonesty. And Eid’s testimony before us was by turns implausible and evasive. In demeanor and substance alike, Eid was not a credible witness.” Donald Agee, Jr. et al., Plaintiffs, v. Jocelyn Benson, in her official capacity as the Secretary of State of Michigan, et al., Defendants. (2024) | FindLaw


Internal Problem #2


Two commissioners, Clark and Witje, have been living outside of Michigan since 2022. Rep. Ann Bollin (R) sent a letter to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson raising concerns.

Michigan redistricting commission member resigns after registering to vote in Illinois ⋆ Michigan Advance. “By living in other states, these individuals have removed themselves from the consequences of any decisions they make as members of the commission,” Bollin  wrote. “Both commissioners have maintained their voter registration in our state despite residing in other states, paying taxes in other states, and – in the case of one individual – switching their driver’s license to another state. This raises concerns about whether these individuals are maintaining their status as members of the commission simply to collect a paycheck.”


Both Clark and Witjies have subsequently resigned. New Commissioners have been appointed.


Kincaid’s last words to We the People: “The commissioners now have a responsibility to go back to the drawing board and finally produce legal maps for the entire state.”

We the People may request maps be redrawn for the entire state: Maps that do not place race above other issues. Maps that do not assist one candidate or one political party. Maps that keep communities of interest together. Maps that respect county, township and city boundaries.


And We the People can be there. We the People can speak.

Make your voice heard!

Submit public comment to the commission, draw districts, or

draw a community of interest map. See the following details:


The Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission (MICRC) will begin court-ordered mapping sessions for seven Michigan House districts. Mapping sessions will be livestreamed on the MICRC YouTube channel.


Individuals may submit written public comment or sign up for live public comment using the form at this link: https://forms.office.com/g/JymDHUgHd9. The Commission will also continue to accept email, mail and/or paper submissions and comments from the public. All written public comment submitted to the Commission will be posted on the MICRC website at Michigan.gov/MICRC.


MICRC mapping meetings during the week of Jan. 22 will be in person at Cadillac Place in Detroit and at additional Detroit locations to be determined. Meetings the week of Jan. 29 will be virtual. All MICRC mapping session dates, times, and locations are available online at this link: bit.ly/MICRCmapdates.


More information about the MICRC is available lt Michigan.gov/MICRC.


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Elizabeth Dallam Ayoub serves as MFE’s director of communications. She started her career working for an international company, transitioned into teaching French and Latin while her children were young, and then became a Michigan attorney.


 

Join us for MFE's Coalition Task Force meeting Thursday,

January 25.


We are grateful for your support and look forward to seeing you at our Coalition Task Force meeting Thursday, January 25, 2024 at 12:00 PM. 


Registration link will be available in upcoming newsletters.


 

Please donate to Michigan Fair Elections. 


MFE is a fiercely independent, tax-exempt 501(c)3 charity. We rely on voluntary contributions to fund our important, and sometimes costly, work. Legal claims are sometimes essential to improve the government and protect citizen rights, and they can be expensive.











Please support MFE's investigative research, honest journalism, and litigative actions to defend We the People's inalienable rights as protected in the U.S. Constitution. Donate today to assist our educational efforts to protect the principles of individual liberty in America.

 

WANTED: Poll Challengers and Election Inspectors


Pure Integrity Michigan Elections (PIME) is renewing its participation in the statewide Election Protection Team to make sure cities and towns across the Mitten State have an equal partisan balance of election inspectors and poll challengers, as the law requires.


If you are interested in becoming an election inspector or poll challenger, fill out the form at: www.electionprotectionteam.com/MI. Once you sign up, you will be emailed a list of poll challenger trainings.


All poll challengers must attend at least one training to be placed at a location in 2024.  To register, click on one of the Training Schedule links below. If you cannot attend one of these training sessions, more will be scheduled for February.

Virtual (Zoom) Training Schedule

  • Thursday, January 25th at 6:30pm (RSVP here

  • Monday, January 29th at 1:00 pm (RSVP here

  • Wednesday, January 31st at 7:00 pm (RSVP here)

  • Thursday, February 1st at 11:00 am (RSVP here)

  • Monday, February 5th at 1:00 pm (RSVP here)

  • Wednesday, February 7th at 7:00 PM  (RSVP here)

  • Thursday, February 8th at 11:00 AM (RSVP here)

  • Monday, February 12th at 1:00 PM (RSVP here)

  • Wednesday, February 14th at 7:00 PM (RSVP here)

  • Thursday, February 15th at 11:00 AM (RSVP here)

  • Monday, February 19th at 1:00 PM (RSVP here

  • Wednesday, February 21 at 7:00 PM (RSVP here

  • Monday, February 26 at 1:00 PM (RSVP here)

 

Mark your calendars to attend Election Integrity Network's outstanding national working groups.

Consider also serving as liaison to report to MFE's Task Force Coalition on our Thursday meetings.

  • Citizen Research Project | Ned Jones, EIN

  • Every Tuesday at 6 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Election Technology | Jim Womack, NCEIT

  • Every 2nd and 4th Thursday at 4 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Introduction to Election Integrity Infrastructure | Kerri Toloczko and Ned Jones, EIN

  • Every 2nd and 4th Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Vote By Mail / USPS | Ned Jones, EIN

  • Every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 4 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Legislative Development | Kathleen Harms, TN

  • Every Wednesday at 2 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Voter Roll Maintenance | Willard Helander, EIN

  • Every Wednesday at 4 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Vulnerable Voters | Kerri Toloczko, EIN

  • Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday at 4 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Every 1st Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Election Audits | Mike Raisch

  • Every 1st and 3rd Thursday at 4 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Building Local Task Forces | Joshua Taylor

  • Every 2nd and 4th Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE

  • Media Training | Kerri Toloczko

  • Every 1st Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET)

  • Register HERE


 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Michigan Fair Elections. Artificial intelligence may have been used in the creation of this message or in the links referenced herein.


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