League of Women Voters Discuss Redistricting Concerns at Community Forum
State Sen. Morris Hood and Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus Information Services Director Mike Vatter gave a history of redistricting, plus answered questions about the process and changes for upcoming elections.
Though 2010 redistricting for the state of Michigan is over, questions about the process and the changes are still numerous–a fact that prompted the League of Women Voters of Dearborn/Dearborn Heights to host a forum on the subject on Monday.
Held at Christ Episcopal Church, Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus Information Services Director Mike Vatter gave some history on redistricting, while state Sen. Morris Hood (D-Dearborn) discussed changes to his own district, and concerns on the process as a legislator.
"We wanted to host a study session so we could learn about redistricting," explained LWVDDH President Mary Bugeia explained. "So the next time it comes up, we will have a declared position on it."
Bugeia said they decided to open the meeting up to the community, realizing that citizens may have many of the same questions.
And with good reason, said Vatter, who has been part of Michigan's redistricting process since 1990, and admitted it's a confusing one–but important for citizens to understand.
"Redistricting can leave huge sections of a community with a new representative; it can win elections," he said. "Ultimately, the way the lines are drawn say who controls the legislature and what laws are passed."
Michigan lost population according to the 2010 Census, which affected redistricting in that the state lost one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As such, redistricting will drastically change the congressional districts Dearborn falls into. Currently, it is split between the 14th and 15th districts, served by Rep. John Conyers and Rep. John Dingell, respectively.
For the 2014 elections, Dearborn will fall entirely in the newly drawn 12th district.
In Dearborn, redistricting changes will mean that the 11th District–currently served by Rep. David Nathan (D-Detroit)–no longer includes a section of east Dearborn. That section is now in Michigan's 15th district, which is served by Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn).
Sen. Hood explained that though his borders in District 5 did change during redistricting, he will still be serving Dearborn. However, his district no longer includes River Rouge, but will include Melvindale.
"There were some individuals who wanted to get Dearborn, and I said no way," Sen. Hood said at Monday's LWV meeting.
He added that for the state senate, it was a "very smooth process."
And that's not usually the case, Vatter explained.
"Registricting is a very personal thing for legislators," he said. "A lot gave up districts they represented for a long time."
Attendees of the event expressed more concern over the convoluted, partisan process than the actual district lines. Several suggested that going back to a bipartisan commission would be the best option for future redistricting.