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Michigan redistricting panel OKs mapping process, schedule

Redistricting graphic

Michigan’s redistricting commission on Thursday approved a process and schedule to draft, propose and ultimately adopt congressional and legislative maps by year’s end.

The 10-2 vote came after commissioners changed course and decided to initially bounce between crafting U.S. House, state Senate and state House districts rather than go one at a time.

The schedule calls for drafting to begin Friday and end Oct. 8, when the 13-member panel of four Democrats, four Republicans and five with no party affiliation will publish draft maps — potentially multiple options — for review. Then nine public hearings will be held Oct. 11-28.

After six days of deliberations, the commission will vote on proposed maps Nov. 5. It could post multiple maps per district type. The recommendation is for no more than two each for Congress, the state Senate and state House, executive director Suann Hammersmith said.

A 45-day public comment period will start Nov. 14. The panel could finalize district lines as early as Dec. 30, though the 45-day period would restart if it makes revisions.

The Dec. 30 target is two months after a Nov. 1 deadline in the state constitution, which could spark lawsuits. The process has been slowed because census data was delayed six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to make sure we get that proposal right,” said Anthony Eid, an independent commissioner. “We shouldn’t be going back and having to edit it three, four, five times and then resetting the 45-day window because if that happens, then our partners at the Department of State aren’t going to be able to turn those maps into ballots. It’s not optimal that we have the timeline that we have, but that is what we got. We’ve just got to move forward and do the best we can under these circumstances.”

Tony Daunt, executive director of the conservative group FAIR Maps Michigan, accused the commissioners of ditching what had been a four-page process plan for a new 30-page plan at the “last minute.”

“Today’s meeting was a painful reminder of how unprepared this commission is to meet their constitutionally mandated deadline,” he said.

In 2018, voters approved an anti-partisan gerrymandering constitutional amendment creating the citizens commission to handle once-a-decade redistricting instead of lawmakers and the governor. In July, the state Supreme Court rejected the panel’s request for new deadlines to produce maps, though some justices said the court ultimately will rule later if the commission is sued for missing the Nov. 1 deadline.