On Thursday Wayne State hosted an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Workshop at the Community Arts Auditorium from 6-7:30 p.m. 

This workshop is one out of 12 events being held across Michigan in coordination with the secretary of state’s office, aiming to educate and encourage citizens to apply for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

In 2018, Michigan amended the state constitution through the passage of Proposal 2, which transfers the role of drawing legislative districts from the state legislature to a commission of 13 randomly selected citizens. Prior to amendment, congressional districts were drawn by the majority party in the state legislature. The commission will be composed of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five Independents with the redrawn lines being in place for ten years. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said citizen involvement is key to accomplishing the secretary of state’s goals for this process. 

“The commission’s role is to engage citizens in the process of drawing district lines for the future, and so we feel (the) public’s engagement at every stage is critical and we’re working toward making sure the entire process is transparent, independent, and truly citizen lead,” she said.

Speakers at the event included WSU’s Student Senate, WSU’s College Democrats and Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Bilal Hammoud, WSU alumnus and public engagement associate for the secretary of state, said all Michiganders are a crucial element of the redistricting process because it’s critical to accurately represent the state geographically and demographically. 

“That’s the only way this commission is going to be fair and representative and to make sure that our elections going forward are fair and representative,” he said.

Benson said looking forward, her goal is for Michigan citizens to get involved and to understand how they matter in this process.

“I hope they all will apply to serve on the commission and recognize that whether they’re on the commission or not, as a citizen of the state of Michigan, they have a voice and a role to play in this process,” Benson said. “So, we want everyone who is eligible to apply to do so, but we also want everyone throughout the state to consider maps, draw maps and (to) submit maps to the commission.”

Hammoud said this process is significant because it changes how communities are represented and funded. 

“It’s going to completely reshape how Michigan looks, reshape Michigan’s future and reshape the way Michigan handles its policy,” he said. “It’s huge. It’s the second time in U.S. history where something like this has ever happened and the first time in Michigan’s history. So, the whole process is historic.”

Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler said he envisions Michigan sparking change in civic engagement and serving as a positive example for other states.

“I think we’ve become the leader. Michigan becomes the leader. Depending on how aggressive we are in educating and engaging the public around this, we become the leaders,” Wheeler said. “Everybody’s going to be looking to Michigan and saying how did you make that happen. You’re going to see voter participation skyrocket in Michigan because of these new laws.”

There will be more events like this to come for Detroit, Benson said. Applications to be a commissioner are due on June 1, 2020. There will be 200 semi-finalists and the final 13 commissioners will be decided by Sept. 1, 2020. The results of the redistricting are set to take effect in January 2022 and will impact the 2022 elections.

Jenna Prestininzi is a contributing writer for The South End, she can be reached at jennap@wayne.edu.

Cover photo by Jenna Prestininzi.