Michigan’s Redistricting Complexities

One of the draft Congressional maps put forward by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for public review this week.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2021 — In this redistricting cycle’s early going, one state appears to be adopting a unique map-drawing approach, and its design likely assures a long and challenging legal process to follow.

The 13-member Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has drafted 10 maps of the congressional, state Senate, and state House maps and made them available for public testimony and comments at a series of upcoming public hearings. Within the series, four relate to the congressional boundaries with the remaining six being divided evenly between the state Senate and House.

The multiple congressional maps go in several different geographical directions and radically alter the state’s district layout to the point of even changing the entire numbering system.

It appears the basis could be in place for many lawsuits and possibly from people or organizations associated with both parties, since the final version will likely draw complaints from both Republicans and Democrats. This would be particularly true if the final map collapses a Voting Rights Act minority district as one version features.

While four draft maps were released, the congressional plan base outline seems to be in place. Remember that Michigan will lose one congressional seat, reducing the delegation size to 13 members, and we will inevitably see at least one pairing of incumbents. At this point, no sitting member has indicated that he or she will retire.

The map versions suggest several options for the Detroit metro area; for example, meaning Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) could all find themselves in some type of a paired situation.

Looking at what little partisan political numbers are available, most of the maps point to the Democrats gaining a net of one seat, but some of the districts would be competitive to the degree of making the final outcome unclear.

Below is a synopsis of where each current member could land:

• District 1: Rep. Jack Bergman (R) – looks to receive a strongly Republican northern Michigan seat bordering Canada from the upper peninsula that will drop even further into the lower peninsula. Labeled District 12.

• District 2: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R) – could be in a paired situation with either Reps. Fred Upton (R) or John Moolenaar (R), as the commissioners take his current 2nd District to the southeast instead of due east or north as expected. The primary winner would get a safe Republican district. Labeled District 9, though Huizenga could run in a new District 13 in a potential pairing with Moolenaar.

• District 3: Rep. Peter Meijer (R) – continues to keep a district where Grand Rapids is the major population anchor. The seat becomes more competitive, however, by adding all or part of the Democratic city of Kalamazoo. Labeled District 4.

• District 4: Rep. John Moolenaar (R) – will likely be saddled in a paired situation. The proposals look to pair him with Rep. Dan Kildee (D) in a Flint-Saginaw-Bay City-Midland district that would lean Democratic. Rep. Moolenaar could instead run in a 13th District that contains many of his current counties, but may find himself in a Republican pairing with either Reps. Huizenga or Upton. Labeled District 11, but could run in District 13.

• District 5: Rep. Dan Kildee (D) – would likely be the beneficiary of the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City-Midland district, though this result would yield a much more competitive seat than his current CD and he could face another incumbent, most likely Rep. Moolenaar. Labeled District 11.

• District 6: Rep. Fred Upton (R) – would likely be paired with either Reps. Huizenga or Moolenaar in either new District 9 or 13.

• District 7: Rep. Tim Walberg (R) – generally receives a similar configuration as his current district, particularly in keeping the Indiana border counties that he currently represents. The new draw would include the city of Battle Creek, which makes his seat more competitive. Labeled District 8.

• District 8: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) – the new drafts would place Rep. Slotkin’s home in the same district as freshman Republican Rep. Lisa McClain, in a seat that contains most of the latter’s strongly Republican territory. It is likely Rep. Slotkin would run in a Lansing anchored Democratic district in which no incumbent currently resides but contains most of her current constituency. Labeled District 5.

• District 9: Rep. Andy Levin (D) – the map versions significantly change Rep. Levin’s current 9th CD, which may leave him in a paired situation with either Reps. Haley Stevens (D) or Brenda Lawrence (D). In most iterations, this region would remain Democratic, though one draw has the seat moving well into Macomb County, and that would lead to greater general election competition. Labeled District 6.

• District 10: Rep. Lisa McClain (R) – Assuming Rep. Slotkin does not run here, Rep. McClain gets her “thumb” anchored eastern Michigan district back that should remain strongly Republican. Would be again labeled District 10.

• District 11: Rep. Haley Stevens (D) – As mentioned above, Rep. Stevens would find her home placed in a new district that would drastically change her constituency and possibly leave her in a Democratic pairing with Rep. Levin. She could also be conceivably paired with Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D) who’s home base is nearby Southfield. Rep. Stevens could run in either District 3 or 6.

• District 12: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D) – Rep. Dingell would likely find herself with a Democratic district, but one much different than her current CD. The draft plans look to split her base in Ann Arbor and Dearborn, placing each city in a different district. Rep. Dingell could find herself in a Democratic pairing with Rep. Lawrence, or run in a seat where no incumbent resides – an Ann Arbor anchored district but one without the family’s long held Dearborn political base. Labeled District 7.

• District 13: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D) – Rep. Tlaib would again find herself in a safe Democratic Detroit anchored district, but likely without her home precincts from the western part of the city. Could find herself paired with Rep. Lawrence if the commission decides to place the entire city of Detroit in one district and risk a major Voting Rights lawsuit. Labeled District 1.

• District 14: Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D) – The only scenario where Rep. Lawrence is not paired with Rep. Tlaib is where the commission adopts a map that continues to split Detroit into two districts. The latter draw, however, which is a likely conclusion, could lead to a pairing with Rep. Dingell and/or Rep. Levin, but it is likely that Rep. Dingell moves to District 7 under this scenario and breaks free of a three-member pairing. Rep. Lawrence could also find herself in a new District 3 and paired with Rep. Stevens. She could run in either District 1, 2 or 3.

As you can see, the base map concept creates a great deal of chaos for the Michigan incumbents. It is difficult to predict at this moment how the final map will be constructed, but we can see the commission members are not particularly concerned with the incumbents’ political bases. It appears the Michigan congressional races will feature a great deal of political action next year.

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