Politics, Policy and Power Praxis Fieldwork Seminar
Faculty Advisor: Marissa Golden
Field Site: Michigan Department of State
Field Supervisor: Melissa Smiley
Praxis Poster:Taylor Walsh_Final Poster
In 2018, Michigan voters elected to create the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. This organization would take on the responsibility of drawing electoral districts. The 13-member commission was designed to give more power to voters as those selected were ordinary citizens, rather than elected officials. In 2020, following the U.S. census, the mapping process began for Congressional, state senate, and state house voting districts. The final maps were presented in December of 2021.
As with many current congressional maps, Michigan’s 2011 map was severely affected by gerrymandering, especially in the greater Detroit area. Currently, there is much debate as to whether the old or new maps give minority voters more voice, especially within Detroit’s black community. In the 2021 maps, there has been a large decrease in black majority districts. While many of these districts have enough minority voters to give a chance to a minority-backed candidate, it is not guaranteed as it was in the 2011 maps.
My job over the past 13 weeks and the purpose of this document is to collect relevant news articles at the local and national level. These articles range from the commission’s creation to the final maps and their subsequent response. I also researched similar commissions from other states, comparing their successes and failures to that of Michigan’s. As this was media coverage available to the public, much of my research was conducted online. I would use tools such as Google Alerts for various terms, predominantly “Michigan redistricting”. I also regularly checked journalists Clara Hendrickson and Sergio Martínez-Beltrán’s Twitter accounts for relevant stories.
My intention with this project is to provide information regarding how the 2020 independent commission was received, with hopes that it will be helpful for future commissions. Many of the commission’s meetings depended upon internet interaction through Zoom meetings, social media, and other online outreach to reach Michigan voters and figure out their next steps. As this was the first independent commission in Michigan- as well as one of the first in the country- the commission was closely monitored nationally as well as locally. In 10 years, online journalism may have transformed from what it is today but considering how quickly social media is taking a forefront in our lives, it is safe to assume internet presence will have a large impact on our lives for years to come. I find it incredibly important to be aware of how the public receives new maps and how to plan for online reactions in the future.