International Policy Center Home Page
Type: Public event

The Next Big Thing: Redistricting In Michigan And The Role Of Communities Of Interest

Date & time

Feb 25, 2021, 7:00-8:30 pm EST


This is a Virtual Event.

Free and open to the public.

In 2018 Michigan voters approved a Constitutional amendment to change how redistricting is done in the state, removing the process from the purview of the state legislature and placing it in the hands of the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). The amendment also prescribes priorities the MICRC must address when drawing new district maps, placing the concept of "communities of interest" (COIs) near the top of the list. 

While COIs have been a part of redistricting in other states, this is a new concept in Michigan, and is not yet widely understood. This webinar will help educate stakeholders about COIs: what they are, the role they will play in Michigan's new redistricting process, and how they can strategize and engage effectively in that process.


John R. Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of political science and public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. His research interests include ethics and public policy, professional ethics, and methods of election and representation. He taught the core course "Values, Ethics, and Public Policy" at the Ford School. He was the founding director of the Ford School's BA in Public Policy program from 2007-2011 and the director of U-M's Center for Ethics in Public Life from 2008-2011. In 2019-20 he directed a student research project at CLOSUP that focused on communities of interest in Michigan's new redistricting system. John has a BS in industrial engineering from Lehigh University and a PhD in decision sciences from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Connie Cook has been an active volunteer with Voters Not Politicians (VNP) since 2017. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Community Mapping Project as well as Special Counsel to the Executive Director of VNP. Connie recently retired from the University of Michigan where  she served as Associate Vice Provost, Executive Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and Clinical Professor Emerita in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.  Connie’s degrees are all in Political Science: a B.A. from Barnard College, an M.A. from Penn State University, and a Ph.D. from Boston University. She is the author of two books on interest groups and political advocacy.

Andy Helmboldt was born in a small rural town outside of Grand Rapids and grew up in a middle-class white family. Both of his parents were teachers in a nearby town's high school, where his father was also the wrestling coach. Andy attended Central Michigan University where he earned a teaching degree. After graduation he found a job teaching in Battle Creek and eventually left education to go into business with a friend. He began volunteering with community organizations and in 2011 ran for at-large city commissioner. He won three terms before deciding to step down to pursue other political organizing work, equity coaching, and writing. 

Rebeka Islam is Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote. She emigrated from Bangladesh to United States with her family when she was 5 years old. After moving to the US, she and her family settled down in Hamtramck a tiny city located on the outskirts of Detroit. Growing up in a community that is consisted mostly of immigrants, Rebeka experienced first-hand how lack of opportunities and lack of awareness coupled with apathetic attitude from leaders was leaving her community behind. That experience helped her grow a strong desire to involve herself in community service, so that she can help bring positive changes in communities of immigrants, and minorities.  Rebeka attended schools in Detroit for her early educations, and completed her undergraduate studies from Wayne State University. She has previously worked for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and Skillman Foundation.  For the past decade Rebeka has worked with Asian Pacific Islander American Vote MI (APIA VOTE MI), in varying capacities from youth intern to serving as current Executive Director.

Mariam Sayeed is pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Ford School, class of 2021. Mariam is originally from Chicago, but has worked in many cities including Pittsburgh exploring the work of policy through community development and civic engagement. She joined the Ford school to pursue a concentration in social policy through international development, immigration reform, and health policy. She looks to continue her career in policy in DC after graduating this upcoming summer from the Ford school. 

Sandra Sorini Elser is a volunteer for Voters Not Politicians.  She is a 1983 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law. She has practiced law in the Southeast Michigan area for over 35 years. She was the Ann Arbor Township general counsel for 30 years. In addition to public law, her practice focuses on the area of real estate development and land preservation.  After retiring from her law firm in January 2020, Ms. Sorini Elser has been an active volunteer in Voters Not Politicians, focusing on the important work of the new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.  She also is a volunteer attorney with Legacy Land Conservancy, and Michigan Indian Legal Services.  She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband Doug, has two sons, four grandchildren, two step-daughters, and two step-granddaughters.

Nancy Wang is the executive director and a founding member of Voters Not Politicians, the grassroots group that led the successful 2018 ballot initiative campaign to amend the Michigan constitution to put voters, not politicians, in charge of redistricting in Michigan. In the 2020 election cycle, VNP launched the VoteSafe campaign to protect public health and the integrity of our elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the VoteSafe program, VNP volunteer teams have helped to expand voting access for over 800,000 Michigan voters in 17 cities and townships, and VNP educated voters statewide on their safe voting options. Nancy is an attorney and received her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

Kermit Williams is Executive Director of Oakland Forward whose goal is to remove economic, racial, and social barriers to opportunities with a focus on people of color in Oakland County. Having become engaged in social justice issues while still a teenager, leading a life of service is important to him. His dedication to civic engagement has led him to public office where he currently serves as Pontiac City Council President.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), the Program in Practical Policy Engagement, Detroit Public TV, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Voters Not Politicians, the citizen-led grassroots organization that spearheaded the effort to pass the amendment. 

For more information contact [email protected] or call 734-647-4091