Ungerrymandered: Michigan’s Maps, Independently Drawn, Set Up Fair Fight
One of the country’s most gerrymandered political maps has suddenly been replaced by one of the fairest.
A decade after Michigan Republicans gave themselves seemingly impregnable majorities in the state Legislature by drawing districts that heavily favored their party, a newly created independent commission approved maps late Tuesday that create districts so competitive that Democrats have a fighting chance of recapturing the State Senate for the first time since 1984.
The work of the new commission, which includes Democrats, Republicans and independents and was established through a citizen ballot initiative, stands in sharp contrast to the type of hyperpartisan extreme gerrymandering that has swept much of the country, exacerbating political polarization — and it may highlight a potential path to undoing such gerrymandering.
With lawmakers excluded from the mapmaking process, Michigan’s new districts will much more closely reflect the overall partisan makeup of the hotly contested battleground state.
“Michigan’s a jump ball, and this is a jump-ball map,” said Michael Li, a senior counsel who focuses on redistricting at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s a lot of competition in this map, which is what you would expect in a state like Michigan.”
The commission’s three new maps — for Congress, the State House and the State Senate — restore a degree of fairness, but there were some notable criticisms. All of the maps still have a slight Republican advantage, in part because Democratic voters in the state are mostly concentrated in densely populated areas. The map for the State House also splits more than half of the state’s counties into several districts, despite redistricting guidelines that call for keeping neighboring communities together.