Experts Aren't Needed On Redistricting Commission, But Hard Work Is Required

Feb 24, 2019

Map of Michigan's Congressional Districts
Credit Department of Interior / Wikimedia Commons

The Director of Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project says a new independent commission in Michigan presents an opportunity to move past partisan gridlock and represent a wide range of interests. Sam Wang says there are also challenges such as essentially starting a new state agency from scratch.

Graduates Students in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs prepared the report on Michigan’s redistricting commission. Voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution in November that creates the commission to draw the lines for Congressional and state Legislative districts.

The Princeton report looks at what criteria the Michigan commission will have to meet and compares Michigan’s redistricting commission with those started in other states. It also includes some possible maps for Congressional districts, and looks at how some state House and Senate districts could be drawn.

Extended interview with Sam Wang for WMUK's WestSouthwest podcast. 

Wang says the commission will need to hire experts and get public input. He says the commissioners don’t have to be experts in redistricting, but Wang says it’s important that the members of the commission get to know each other and develop trust.

The redistricting commission won’t be established until after the 2020 census. There is currently a lawsuit over the maps that were approved by the state Legislature in 2011. Attorneys defending the maps have said that Democrats have a “geography problem.” Since people who vote for Democrats tend to live in larger cities, they are grouped together in Congressional and state legislative districts. Wang says Republicans have a small advantage because their voters are more likely to live in rural areas. But he says creative drawing of lines can produce a range of different outcomes with the same population pattern.

Image from Wikimedia Commons