Playlist: Michigan

"Communities of Interest" and Michigan's new approach to redistricting through an Independent Citizens Commission

November 18, 2019 1:10:00
Kaltura Video

Panelists Jocelyn Benson, Connie Malloy, Chris Lamar, Christopher Thomas, & moderator Nancy Wang discuss Michigan's approach to redistricting via an Independent Citizens Commission. November, 2019.


Good afternoon.

Welcome to the ford school.

I am Tom Ivacko, interim director of 

the Center for Local, State and 

Urban Policy.

Can you hear me in the back okay?

I am interim director of CLOSUP, the Center for 

Local State and Urban Policy and

it's my pleasure it kick off 

today's discussion.

I would like to thank our 


The event is sponsored by CLOSUP

and the Gerald R. Ford school

of public policy as part of the 

policy talks series.

It's co-sponsored by the school's

program and practical policy 


The student group, domestic 

policy corps, the university's 

Ginsberg Center for community 

service and learning as well as 

Detroit public television, which

is live streaming the event 

online and by voters not 


We're grateful for all of their 


At the end of the panel 

discussion, we will have 15 to 

the audience.

Please write your questions on 

the index cards that were handed out.

If you need another one, flag 

down a staff member.

We'll start to collect those 

at around 4:30 or so

and will continue as the 

discussion continues.

For those of you joining us 

online, please tweet your 

questions using the hashtag 

#policy talks.

We will add them to the list 

generated here.

The topic of today's discussion.

Michigan new approach to 

redistricting through an 

independent citizen's commission

is a particularly important 


It's one that has the potential 

for far-reaching and 

long-lasting impacts on the 

state of Michigan.

And because of that, tied to the

event today, close up has also 

launched a research and service 


We're working with the Michigan 

secretary of state's office to 

advise the Independent citizens 

redistricting commission about 

our interests.

We have worked closely with the 

department of State and sally 

marshall has been a tremendous 

partner on that.

We are grateful to the secretary

of state, sally marsh for 

partnering with us on this.

The project is conducted by a 

team of talented ford school 

students under the direction of 

John chamberlain, professor 


Joining us on the panel are the 

ford school team.

Sophia merchant and Nick NAGer 

will have question sorting by 

Sarah GRUN and Sara graph.

And also like to thank Bonnie 

Roberts, close up events manager

for pulling this all together.

Always a great job.

Thank you.

So let's turn to the event.

We have an outstanding panel of 

speakers today.

Begins with opening remarks or 

remarks when she gets here, 

actually just about perfect 


We can welcome Michigan 

secretary of State, Jocelyn 



Thank you so much.

So, yes, we will have opening 

remarks by Michigan secretary 

ofstate Jocelyn Benson.

First I will introduce our 

moderator and she will introduce

the panelists and kick off the 


Our moderator is Nancy wang, 

founding member of voters not 

politicians, the impressive 

grass-roots organization that 

led the 2018 campaign to pass a 

constitutional amendment to end 

partisan gerrymandering in 


Truly remarkable accomplishment.

Nancy led the policy committee 

that wrote the constitutional 

amendment language with 

significant input from the 


And she served as president of 

the voters not politicians board

of directors during that 


Prior to that, Nancy had an 

accomplished career as an 

educator and attorney and served

as the director of the 

university's environmental law 


She also has played the key role

in assembling this terrific 

panel for us today and we're 

grateful for all that work.

Thank you, Nancy.

So with that brief introduction,

please join me in welcoming our 

moderator, Nancy wang.



Thank you so much for being 


I see a lot of friendly faces 

out in the audience including a 

lot of voters not politicians 


It's great to see everyone.

We really have an all-star panel

here today.

I'm thrilled for the 

conversation that's going to be 

before us.

Thank you to Tom and to Bonnie 

for hosting us today and for the

ford school for having us and 

Detroit public television for 

broadcasting this live.

lots of reasons.

One big one was 2.5 million 

citizens crossed the state of 

Michigan from all political 

parties all across the state 

voted in favor of proposal 2 to 

take politicians out of our 

redistricting process.

To make Michigan's days as one 

of the most gerrymandered in the

entire country no more.

And to put in its place a new 

citizen-led process.

And to make unconstitutional 

gerrymandering where politician 

drew up maps to give them safe 


We look forward to a citizen's 

commission forming now.

And whose job it is will be to 

draw fair maps that don't favor 

one political party or candidate

over another and draw map that 

is reflect and respect our 

communities of interests.

This is central to our new 

citizen-led redistricting 


What exactly does that mean?

Where do we care about 

communities of interest?

Why do we put them at the center

of our election maps and how is 

the citizen's commission really 

going to do that?

How will it know where our 

communities are?

What can we expect our maps to 

look like once this next 

redistricting cycle is done?

So what will our 2022 maps look 


The first elections where the 

commission drawn maps will be in

effect and when will this 


What is the time table and how 

can you be a part of it?

Those are questions we will be 

posing to our expert panel 


We will have them walk us 

through the new redistricting 

process and explain how this 

works in real life.

What we can learn from 

California citizen-led process 

they underwent in 2011 and I'm 

here to introduce and thank so 

much our panelists, secretary 


Secretary Benson is Michigan's 

She is a graduate of Harvard law

specializing in education and 

election law.

Served as dean of Wayne state 

law school and became the 

youngest woman to lead a top 

Under our constitutional 

amendment, the secretary of 

state's office is in charge of 

administering the application 

process for people who will be 

applying to serve on the 


That means that her office is in

charge of making applications 


She opened the application 

process on October 24th recently

and by all accounts, it's been 

very, very well received and 

there's been a ton of public 

interest and a lot of 

applications have been submitted

which we are thrilled about.

We are also thrilled she really 

is leading this application 

process in a way that's 

inclusive and transparent and 

really is presenting this 

opportunity out to all 


Next we have to my life, Connie 

Malloy, she is a California 

commissioner from the 2011 

redistricting cycle.

And its current chair.

She serves as executive director

of the panta rhea foundation.

It partners have individual 

donors and other entities on 

grant-making strategies and 

served as portfolio director of 

the James irvine Las office.

I am excited to have Connie's 

first-hand account of how the 

California commission took in 

all the public input from across

the state of California and made

decisions balancing between 

different voices and sometimes 

conflicting opinions about where

communities lay.

And then to her left, we have 

Chris Thomas.

Chris Thomas is, he retired from

the Michigan Department of State

on June 30, 2017, after 40 years

of election administrative 

services which included 36 years

as Michigan's director of 


I'm really excited to have Chris

Thomas here to talk about what 

communities of interest we have,

what the lay of the land here is

in Michigan.

And finally, last but not least,

Chris lamar travelling from 

Washington, D.C..

He is legal council dedicated to

strengthen the Democratic 

process across all levels of 


Chris works on redistricting 

policy and litigation.

It includes creating and 

protecting redistricting

independent commissions across

the country.


thank you so much.

With that, I would like to 

invite secretary Benson to 

please deliver opening remarks.

Thank you Nancy.

It's really exciting to be here 

in this capacity and the 

individual charged with 

administerial way administering 

the commission and the selection

of commission.

I want to talk about what we're 

doing there and my fellow 

panelists as well and everyone 


I am, I come at this office as 

many of you know not as a 

politician but academic.

I focused on best practices and 

also data and making 

solution-oriented approach to 


But also ensuring that we are 

preserving everything that we do

for future decades in which this

citizens redistricting 

commission will move forward.

But in the midst of all that, 

has been reflected in many other

areas of my office, I know as an

academic, the best way to 

approach something is to collect

data and best practices and make

informed decisions based on 


What the panelist reflect are a 

lot of the experts who we 

consulted with as we worked to 

develop a citizen redistricting 

process that is independent, 

citizen led and transparent and 

I'm grateful for the expertise 

of those here with us today who 

care about these issues 

sincerely and have been helping 

advise our office as others have

been as well as to how we can 

factor all perspectives into the

equation as we make decisions of

the administration of this 


And before this panel dies into 

the concept of communities of 

interest and takes into 

consideration some of the issues

that the citizen commissioners 

will have to weigh, I want to 

take a moment to talk about the 

big picture.

And the importance of this 

moment that we are very much as 

well, as much as we in many may 

celebrate the successes of the 

effort that amended our state 

constitution to give citizens 

the power to redraw district 

lines, which is something as a 

private citizen advocated for 

over a decade, as exciting as it

is to see that vision come to 

fruition, this is not the time 

to take a victory lap.

Now is the time to dig in and 

get to work ensuring this 

commission which million of 

citizens envisioned is a 


We define success in our office 

as ensuring the process itself 

is truly citizen led, is truly 

independent and nonpartisan and 

is transparent in every step of 

the way.

So those three pillars have 

defined our approach to this in 

addition to wanting to collect 

and talk to you stakeholders and

experts from around the state 

and country of varying 

perspectives to ensure everyone 

is engaged.

I'm also going to talk about 

everyone here watching today and

at home can get involved in this

historic moment.

It's truly a historic moment in 

democracy in this state and for 

this country.

The fact is that Michigan is 

really the only second state in 

the country to take on something

like this where citizens are 

empowered and selected in the 

way they are in the process to 

draw the congressional state 

legislative and Senate district 

lines for years to come.

And in our view, this precedent 

and the work that we do over the

next two years to create this 

citizens redistricting 

commission and see to it it's 

successful will really determine

the success of future 

commissions not just in Michigan

but around the country.

I highly suspect though Michigan

is the second state to take 

something like this on in this 

way, it will not and should not 

be the last.

Everything we do we recognize as

midwest state as a purple state 

reflects what can happen and 

come to fruition in other states

as well.

So recognizing that, citizens 

have a historic role to play in 

ensuring the commission's 

success and being a part of the 

first-of-it's kind for Michigan 

voters to create fair and 

impartial districts in this 


As we announced and Nancy 

mentioned, we announced the 

application process and I will 

talk a little bit about that.

But I want to emphasize everyone

can go to to get

all the information about the 

process and see everything from 

public comment on the 

application, access the 

application itself, and track 

the data as we make it available

throughout the next few years.

Or really throughout the next 

year until the commission is 

seated a year from now.

I will note that we are in phase

one of a three-phase process we 


The phase one of the process is 


Everyone right now around the 

state is invited to apply to be 

one randomly selected to serve 

on the 13-member commission.

The election process will happen

next June which is the beginning

of phase two, what that means is

that you have from now until 

June 1st of next year to apply.

Plenty of time, all the time in 

the world but still a finite 

amount of time to put your name 

in the hat to be selected.

And what we have seen 

October 24th this was launched.

Within the first hour of us 

announcing these applications 

were available, 100 people 


By the end of the day, a 

thousand people had applied.


we're now close to having 

several thousand people apply 

and that is compared to 

California, which has four times

our population, very likely that

we will eclipse the number of 

applications that California 

received in its process.

That's great.

But as I have been saying to 

every audience.

My team and I have been going 

around the state that really 

truly what our bar and metrics 

of success is, is everyone feel 

they serve to have a seat at the


Does everyone know that no 

formal education or experience 

is required to entitle you to 

have a seat as a part of the 


The only thing we ask is you're 

a registered voter who is not a 

politician or lobbyist, 

otherwise eligible to be a part 

of process and willingness to 

serve and so through that we 

have seen a number of citizens 

step up and we hope every single

one of you in the room tonight 

eligible to apply will do so and

we have plenty of resources on 

hand to walk you through it. is any

way you can access the 

application and encourage others

to do so as well.

This commission will be seated a

year from now.

In the fall of 2020.

There's not much else going on 

in the fall of 2020.

There will be lots of time to 

focus on this.

Phase one of the process is the 

application process.

Go to 

to apply.

Phase two begins in June of next


In June of 2020, applications 

will close and there will be a 

random selection process.

There's two other aspects of 

phase one worth mentioning.

Number one, we continue to post 

data of those applying through 

this process on our website once

we have statistically 

significant data to post to see 

what communities are applying, 

what perspectives are on the 

table and any work to lean into 

communities or geographic 

locations that need attention 

and encouragement to apply.

Transparency will be online and 

the second thing we are doing 

and this is required in the 

constitutional amendment.

Proactively mailing invitations 

to apply to thousands I will 

say, thousands of eligible 

residents throughout the state.

This is going to be a random 

selection from the qualified 

voter file.


That is happening tomorrow.

It will be streamed live on 


Facebook live streamed and has 

the details.

Just as another reflection of 

the work we're doing, not just 

to live up to the will of the 

voters we will continue to be 

proactive in reaching people and

encouraging them to be a part of

this process and assuring them 

they have a seat at the table.

Phase two begins next June.

At this point, applications will


selected with the statistical 

waiting for demographics and 

geographic information.

Contact information will be 

retracted but basic information 

will be posted online.

Again transparency and the 200 

names will be submitted to the 

state legislature at which point

the four quadrant leader will 

have the opportunity to veto 

five for a total of 20 vetoes 

for people they feel shouldn't 

be selected in the final pool.

That's the only qualitative 

check on the process.

The 180 go back to the random 

lottery and four Republicans, 

four Democrats and five 

unaffiliated voters will be 


If you or anyone, we know 13 

will be selected to sit on the 


You get $40,000 compensation for

your time.

The commission will have one 

year from next fall to draw the 

maps that will be the next 

congressional state legislative 

and state Senator districts for 

the entire state.

During that year which is phase 

three, it is probably more 

critical, citizen engagement is 

probably more critical for that 

phase than for me any other 


As much as we want everyone to 


The need for citizens to be 

engaged and involved and 

defining communities of interest

and what they want their 

districts to look like will be 


We don't want to take this time 

and only lobbyists and 

politicians to come to the 


We want citizens to draw maps to

the commission for 


The commission is going to be 

required to hold 15 public 

hearings around the state.

That's also in the 

constitutional language and town

halls we hope that is just the 

bear minimum of work we all will

do to engage citizens in map 

drawing part of the process.

One year for the commission will

be engaging citizens, listening 

and hearing and agreeing and 

accepting maps for Congress, 

state Senate and the state 


They will go into law 2021.

This will be the first decade 

worth of elections that go into 


As you see in my view, it's 

critical citizens are engaged as

watch dogs and engaged citizens 

at every step of the process 

with also the knowledge that 

everything we do over these 

three phases for the next two 

years will not just impact the 

districts for the next decade, 

but they will determine the 

process and precedent that goes 

into state and influence the 

development of several citizens 

redistricting in other states.

The stakes are high and we're 

ready to meet them and the 

expectation of all of you who 

want to ensure this is a 


One of the ways I think it will 

be a success is if all of you 

here engage, apply, tell your 

friends and families and 

neighbors about this opportunity

and stay engaged throughout this


Because this truly is your 

opportunity to influence and 

draw Michigan's future.

With that, Nancy.

Are you coming back up?

Thank you all and thank you for 

being a part of this.


this is beyond exciting to see 

all of this coming to life.

So the reason we're talking 

about communities of interest is

because under the constitutional

amendment, this commission has 

certain strict rules written in 

the constitution it must follow 

when it's drawing the maps.

The last thing we want is 

another system that we had 

before where a different set of 

people can go behind closed 

doors and draw maps for 

political gain.

So, there are these specified 

criteria that are in the 


First and foremost, all maps 

drawn by the commission are 

adopted by the commission have 

to comply with all federal laws.

The federal constitution, one 

person one vote.

The voting rights act and also 

all districts have to be 


They have one one connected 


You can't have one district 

where it has one island over 

here and another here.

So that's like common sense.

Number three, is communities of 


We really elevated the 

importance of communities in the

redistricting process in our 


And the reason for that is 

something I would like to 

discuss with you all.

But first, Chris lamar, do you 

find just describing for us what

does community of interest mean 

and is that a novel or radical 


First of all, I want to back 

up, secretary Benson and 

challenge you about not doing a 

victory lap.

Looking at this room, I have 

been in other states.

This room is amazing.

Seeing people expected.

We can have a victory moment.

A pat on the back.

But having said that, I work as 

kind of what was mentioned in 

creating, protecting and 

implementing communities, 

independent redistricting 

commissions across the country.

I can tell you right now the 

idea of a communities of 

interest and not a rare thing.


Some only for legislative.

Some only for congressional 


Others for constitutional 


By itself, although it sounds 

like this new idea actually 


The other thing that's also 

important to know is the way 

that communities of interest 

have been defined.

Communities of interest 

generally include racial, 

social, economic considerations.

One of my favorite or one of the

things I liked about the 

California commission is that 

they talked about based on what 

they did in the district.

If there was a lot of forest 

fires and there was a lot of 

outdoor activities and the 

economic activity was based on 

the things they did sort of 

socially and economically, that 

was the way to do fine a 

community of interest.

I had one more thought and 

escaped me.

I would say that, the other 

point is Michigan defines in its

constitutional amendment that 

the map criteria shall reflect 

the diversity of the state and 

communities of interest.

For the purposes of avoiding 

gerrymandering say communities 

of interest do not include 

affiliations to political 

parties or incumbents.

That is very important to me.

I have seen examples in other 

commissions where you will see 

voters say their community is 

the politician when that's not 


It's people you go grocery 

shopping with and who you send 

to the state capitol.


Anyone have anything else to 

add to that?

Connie, I would like to ask you 

about how California defines 

communities of interest and what

parallels you see between the 

Michigan language and 



So in California, we had a 

similar approach which is that a

community of interest needed to 

be contiguous.

That big word that means they 

physically need to be connected 

that share common, social or 

economic interest.

I really want to underscore if 

nothing else today for to all 

know that you as MichiganDERs 

are communities of interest.

As a commissioner, I was given 

census data to work with.

It's a really critical input 

into this process because you 

need to know how many people you

have if you hope to arrive at 

what does one person one vote 

look like in percent.

You get basic demographic data 

and there's so much the census 

doesn't tell you.

It doesn't give you information 

about the economy, geography or 

the history of a place.

That is something where the 

testimony from the public and 

your lived experiences is really

critical to be able to inform 

how the commission takes these 

dry kind of numbers and 

statistics from the census and 

makes it come Alive into a set 

of fair maps that make sense for

the community.

No matter how representative of 

commissioners you have around 

the table.

There's no way to think that all

various perspectives of 

communities of interest will be 


It's a great opportunity to be 

engaged in the democracy and 

being help provide our appointed

officials with the information 

they need to be able to do their

jobs well.

The commission successes really 

depends on each of you weighing 

in and on the commission's 

ability to listen to what you 

say and translate that into fair


As one example when I was in 

middle school, I lived in 

Lansing and I could just sit in 

California with the census data 

and I could try and draw and 

district maps for Lansing but I 

know it's hard to believe a few 

years have passed since I was in

middle school and the community 

may have changed 

The things I remember about 

the neighborhood and my 

neighbors, all of that has 


It's common sense to think the 

districts should evolve and each

should have a say in what should

be involved.

I remember us getting a lot 

of questions during the prop 2 

campaign about what we had then 

and proposing now.

Chris Thomas, I would like to 

ask your opinion, first do you 

mind explaining for the audience

what the A poll standards well.

Again it's a pleasure to be 


It is not an acronym, it's 

Bernie Apol's last night.

He was referred to as Mr. 

Election in Michigan.

Michigan in the '63 constitution

provided for a bipartisanship no

independence or not affiliated.

A bipartisanship legislative 

apportionment commission for 

Republicans for Democrats.

They drew a lot of plans but 

never agreed on a single one.

'64, '72 and '82 they never came

together and so it always ended 

up in a Michigan Supreme Court.

So in '72, the Democrats I 

believe put two plans forward 

and the Republicans one.

And the Democrats went after 

sort of a zero deviation.

Every district would be as 

nearly equal in population.

Which is not all that necessary 

in the legislative 


And the court picked that plan.

And than plan sliced and diced 

communities where it went in to 

grab population.

To bring another district to a 

zero deviation.

And there's probably political 

considerations as well when they

sliced and diced.

Which made the election process 

very difficult.

We tried to have precincts back 

then and in particular, that 

were not split between 


So in other words, a precinct 

doesn't have two different state

house districts in it because 

things get complicated, people 

are given the wrong ballot and 

it gets messy.

It's not surprising in 1982 when

Mr. Apol retired a couple years 

prior to that, he was called 

upon to be the master by the 

Michigan Supreme Court to assist

in drawing the plans that year.

The court decided they had 

enough of the partisan of 

playing that role.

So they pretty much ended that 

process, that commission that 

was their last go around.

So the Apol standards which were

likely authored by justice 

lemon, Charles lemon and Ann 

Bernie, looked at jurisdictional


So after you did the federal 

population and the voting rights

act and contiguity, you then 

drew a plan that split the 

fewest number of county lines 

and then within those counties, 

split the fewest numbers city 

and township lines.

It sounded very neutral.

There's some consideration that 

it really didn't turn out to be 

that neutral in a partisan 


So that's what was used in '82.

And then it went forward from 

there in a different iterations.

It was put into state law used 

in '99 or put in '99.

Used in 2001, 2002 process by 

The legislature said one 

legislature can't bind another 


They did adhere to it.

They clearly weren't bound or 

had to adhere to every single 

piece of it.

That's the limbo and where it 

was left.

It was nice from election and 

administration viewpoint that 

communities were not chopped up.

But, as I have been told through

my entire career by lawyers and 

judges and attorney general 

system that an election 

officials and administrative 

convenience does not have a high


So I can see how political 

boundaries and Apol standards 

had a certain appeal.

Can we either Chris lamar or 

secretary Benson talk about why 

states have, is it, first of 

all, is it fair to say, states 

have moved away from political 

boundaries and kind of looked 

more toward drawing maps around 

communities of interest?

Is that a trend?

Is that a best practice?

I'm thinking, sorry.

I would say that communities of 

interest are being given more 

consideration probably than they

have been in the past.

But I wouldn't say they are 

being considered more than 

political boundaries.

I think political boundaries are

still considered to be an 

important thing to think about.

So our legislative districts as 


But I think the challenge though

is one of the things that we 

have seen in the past is that 

lines have been drawn for 

partisan reasons but they rely 

on just saying Oh, well that's 

the political boundaries we 

couldn't help it and nothing to 

do about it.

When you look at a map, you can 

see that's not particularly 


I think Dave Daley, the author 

of the book, I can't say what 

it's actually called.

Talks about this district that 

is Michigan 14 and the 

Michigan's 14th congressional 

district and 11th congressional 


They almost look like.

One is a snake and the other is 

the puzzle piece that fits 

around the snake.

There's a piece where Farmington

is cut out of Michigan 14 and 

Dave Daley calls it looks like 

the state of Oklahoma is being 

balanced on top of an index 


It's cut out of the rest of 

Michigan 14th district.

Dave Daley continued on and has 

a conversation with the person 

responsible for drawing this 


He says that's just a political 


There's nothing I can do about 


You could have put it Farmington

in with the rest of Michigan 

district 14 kind of thing.

It's always one of the concerns.

Using political boundaries can 

be a pretext for partisan means 


Actually thinking about what the

communities really look like and


So you know, Connie or 

others, what is the purpose of 

us concentrating on communities 

of interest and why would states

like California focus on drawing

maps around communities what is 

the concept behind that?

Well, in California, the way 

our process was organized 

cities, counties, neighborhoods 

and communities of interesting 

were given the same level of 

ranging in the priority.

We had to think about the trade 

offs between the two.

What is more important to 

preserve the jurisdictional 

boundary or is there a 

neighborhood that has 


If you asked 10 people in the 

same neighborhood, they might 

give you a slight variation.

I will give you a couple 

examples of putting on the map.

When we were in inland 

California, we were in an area 

that four different counties 

came together.

So it was a kind of a corner 

where they all just met.

And we were doing hearings and 

found out this was an area where

the community really felt like 

their jurisdictional boundaries 

were so dated.

There had been an area where 

this community they shared an 


They shared schools and it 

actually overlapped all four 

counties and while we were tried

to really minimize splits, we 

came to talk about where we did 

make splits what is a 

responsible split here?

How can we both preserve the 

integrity and how rarely 

jurisdictional boundaries 


They don't reflect the community

that has grown up around them.

In northern California, as many 

of you probably enjoy the wine 

that comes from California.

You know that agriculture is 

really critical to our economy 

and our first set of maps we 

realized that the grape growing 

areas and the processing of 

those grapes were in one 

district and we had 

inadvertently put all the 

distributors in a different 


To have representatives to be an

advocate and support for the 

industry, we wouldn't have known

that as commissioners not from 

the area if it wasn't for the 

communities of interest that 

came in and helped shape the 

map, so by the time we finalized

them, they were a better 

reflection of the community that

was there.

There's so many gaps in terms of

that census data set and a need 

to be able to supplement that 

and have a good understanding of

what is important in a given 


 Can you describe for us the 

process California went to get 

feedback like this.


We had a set of hearing and we 

decided ourselves to do some 

hearings before we even put a 

maps, even did any drafting to 

get a general sense of what the 

public's interests were.

Then we did a set of hearings 

that happened once we had a set 

of draft maps and as we were 

continuing to change the maps in


So we would have live 

visualizations that were always 

live streamed where people could

weigh in as we were in the map 

making process.

We had various options on how 

people would be able to 

contribute testimony.

Many times people wanted to say 

what they individually thought 

their map should look like and 

they were other groups where 

they tried to express a 

collective voice.

Might be a civic organization.

A neighborhood, you name it.

We had in the hearings, we would

have a number of hours set aside

for public testimony where all 

of the commissioners were 


It was like a city council 


Everyone would come up and have 

their two to three minutes to be

able to express their thoughts 

and everybody was welcome to 

submit in writing or by e-mail 

what their opinions were.

We heard from thousands of 

Californians in person across 

the state but we also received 

tens of thousands of written 

submissions and e-mails with the

folks submitting a collective 

opinion, many times those came 

in the form of a small memo or 

report, something that was able 

to aggregate up information from

a number of individuals.

I think that ability to have 

different mechanisms for 

different communities and they 

were times when we would be in a

community where they might have 

a number of numbers of that 

community who were limited 

English proficiency.

We had translators in the 

sessions we did that would come 

up in the stand and help 

translate in advance so we could

also receive not just those who 

knew English well, but those 

even if they knew it, it might 

not be the most comfortable way 

for them to express themselves.

And what did the commission 

find was sort of the most 

helpful input in 

We learned this by trial and 

error from having received some 

testimony early on that we 

thought who are we going to do 

with that.

The most important parts is 

identify the who.

Who are you talking about and 

where do they live work or play.

At the end of the day, we have 

to draw maps.

If we don't have a way of 

physically locating what you're 

talking about.

It will be difficult for us to 

reflect in a set of maps.

The boundaries can be from a 

street to river to landmark in a

community and take many 

different forms.

It needs to have a way of 

boundaries to understand where 

it would physically go on the 

map and for us to document why 

should this people be kept 

together for political 


Not because they like each other

or have fun hanging out 

together, there must be 

something they really stand to 

gain or lose depending on 

whether they're grouped together

or not.

In some cases, there was a story

around it made, it was important

to be kept together safer in a 

congressional map but more 

flexible in assembly map.

There might be federal funding 

critically at stake.

We had a federal super fund 


For that area to be kept 

together was important for them 

to be able to keep doing the 

environmental work they needed 

to do.

That's really the elements.

The who, where they are and why 

it matters.

Having that documented on the 

record was what we needed to be 

able to do our jobs.

Secretary Benson, you 

mentioned phase three, the 

community mapping process.

Can you describe for us what 

that process will look like and 

what tools the commission will 

have at its disposal.

The commission once it's 

formed is completely autonomous.

All of the decisions outside of 

what is in the constitutional 

amendment will be theirs and 

theirs alone including how to 

weigh different factors, how to 

define communities of interest.

In that regard, really the first

step of the commission once 

convened is to put them in front

of experts from all different 

perspectives and backgrounds 

they select because they will 

have again the autonomy to do 

that and so they can begin to 

educate themselves how to best 

make informed decisions moving 


The public engagement component 

of that year is critical.

Because they will be hiring 

their own staff.

Identifying their own data and 

software and VENDors and all the


And hosting their own town 


And in doing so, they will be 

inviting members of the public 

to submit maps.

My office hopes to be providing 

software and data to citizens 

throughout the state via schools

and libraries and other networks

so that citizens can ahead of 

time or without attending a town

hall draw their own maps and 

persade the commission to 

consider them.

So it's going to be the 

commission will be autonomous.

Our office will be kind of 

focused still on the citizen 

engagement component of this 


At every point, it will be the 

citizens who lead the way.

Not those just to the commission

and those who are not advocating

for their communities.

One of the best stories is where

you had two communities of 

interest submit who were 

neighboring communities submit 

maps who came from commissioners

themselves and submitted maps 

that were in conflict with each 


That's another kind of, the 

inherent subjectivity in many 

ways of the definition can lead 

to two people in the same 

geographic area having two 

different definitions of the 

boundaries and aspects of what 

makes the community of enter.

The commission basically said to

the two entities that came 

forward with the conflicting 


Work it out amongst yourself and

come back to us with a 


They went away and redrew the 


That's what this process should 

be about.

Engaging citizens at every step 

of the way.

My hope is the commission will 

similarly do that.

My expectation is they will 

based on the large amount of 

people who are going to be I 

think involved in the engagement


But again the commission itself 

once seated is entirely 


And will be up to the 

commissioners themselves to 

determine how to proceed.



So Connie, can you help our 

commission kind of sore how can 

the state set up the commission.

What are the greatest challenges

you came up against in terms of 

evaluating the information you 

were getting or the amount of 

time you had to process all the 

information about communities 

and turn them into actual maps?

Because the commission is 


They will have a number of 

decisions they have to make how 

to organize themselves to do the

work that will have a material 

impact on the maps drawn at the 

end of the day.

I do think it's important for 

those who care about the 

integrity is just as important 

to weigh in on that as it is to 

weigh in on the communities of 

interest piece.

I will give you an example.

Because of dirty baggage 

redistricting has.

When we were seated, doesn't 

matter who we chose on the 

commission, whatever their 

political party was, our 

commission was going to have the

image that party had more 

influence on the commission.

So we decided to establish a 

rotating structure of leadership

where we would always have 

someone from a different party 

in the chair and vice chair 


If we have a Republican in the 

chair seat, we have to have a 

Democratic or independent on the


Anyone who wanted to be part of 

leadership was part of the 


That helped to manage the image 

this commission was for the 

people, all of the people and to

guard against undue influence.

There's a number of policy 

decisions that the secretary's 

office won't be able to dictate 

but the public can weigh in on.

I encourage you to do that.

I think the sheer volume of 

testimony is a real challenge 

and particularly given this was 

the first time out the gate that

anyone in the nation it done a 

restricting truly independent 

process, the interest level was 


I remember sitting in at hearing

in Los Angeles and being looking

at hundreds and hundreds of 


We only booked the hearing room 

for three hours and ended up, we

passed five hours and finally 

when we were getting close to 

six hours, the venue kicked us 


They were times where we had 

flexibility in the venues and 

others we didn't.

There was a pent up demand where

people are upset about their 

districts and want to vent.

And then as they vent, they will

have an opinion around what a 

solution could be it was 


There was a huge volume of 

information to be managed.

There's ways technology has 

continued to evolve since we did

our process nine years ago, 

staffing or consulting staff 

that managing the inflow of 

information and be able to show 

what the trends are and the 

density of feed back is really 


We had day jobs and the 

commission roles.

A night I would be there with my

one-year old and scrolling 

through thousands of e-mails 

trying to make sense of them 


The conflicting communities of 

interest is going to happen.

In any state, it will happen and

what the secretary was referring

to with the different groups 

coming together was called the 

unity maps.

That was where as a commission 

we just got stuck.

They were and areas of the state

they were so densely populated 

with competing interests that we

were very transparent with the 

community and said, if you know,

if you don't figure out to 

compromise, we're going to have 

to make the decision for you and

we will do our best but we don't

know the community you do.

We strongly encourage you to 

come back with something more 

integrated and so their ability 

to do that I think they are much

happier with the districts they 

ended up with than if we tried 

to do that just kind of from a 

blank slate.

I think the piece around the 


How you set yourself up and what

that means in terms of 

day-to-day is critical.

I know Michigan has funding 

coming and it's modest compared 

to the task at hand.

How they determine where and to 

do hearings, where are they 

going to put all of the 


So many people across the nation

don't even know what 

redistricting is.

As a commissioner, so so wanted 

to educate the public as a 

precursor for them to show up at

the meetings.

We didn't have the money to do 


You have the volunteer 

associations, community-based 

hearings and libraries, it will 

be a great way for you to have 


We are going to leave time 

for questions.

But I would like to pose one 

more question for each of the 


You see everyone who is really 

interested obviously in the 

success of the commission.

What is one piece of advice or 

suggestion for anyone in the 

audience how to get involved or 

they help the commission be more


What is a role they can take?

Number one.


Number two, get everyone you 

know to apply as well.

And number three, once the 

commission is seated, if you're 

not selected, be involved in 

hosting an event to be a 

precursor to a town hall where 

you're educating and having a 

conversation even amongst a 

community or in and way kind of 

doing that preparation and 

thought process to SXHIS your 

own maps and ensure that yours 

and other opinions are heard.

The selection is only one aspect

of the citizen participation.

That critical component will 

come as the commission is seated

and I think what I will 

underscore as well is that I 

have seen, on the front lines 

and having an office in Lansing,

is to not underestimate efforts 

of those who are not in this 

room or maybe.

Who do not support this process.

And I think VNP saw it first 

hand through the campaign.

There are folks out there who 

usually have had this power and 

influence on both sides and 

they're not happy they don't 

have it anymore.

And they're not just going to 

sit quietly.

There will be efforts to try to 

de-legitimize the process.

We are ready to be the shield 

and take the hits.

But it's important that the 

truth and the narrative of 

citizen engagement breaks 

through any other attempts to 

confuse the process or wrongly 

define the processes one that is

anything other than independent 

and transparent and citizen-led.

If you can help tell the story 

as well to ensure that citizens 

know how, what a great 

opportunity this process is and 

how truly transparent and 

citizen led it will be is going 

to be I think really important 

to the commission's ultimate 



When we first got going as a 

commission, we were hated in 

our, in Sacramento, 

So everyone apply.

The reason I say that is because

we were really striking at the 

nerve center of how will 

politicians were wielding their 


They didn't want us to order 

pencils or have a meeting room 

to go into.

As the commissioners get seated,

whether or not you're one of 

them, being able to tell that 

story and be an ambassador for 

the process, I'm more and more 

confident there's no perfect set

of maps or commissioners, but 

the standard to hold ourselves 

to, is will this process be more

fair, more transparent and 

better than what it was before 

and know it's also a learning 


This is the first time 

Michigan is doing this.

I know in California, we had so 

many things we learned the first

time that we quickly did 

additional legislation.

To take from the spirit of can 

we be better and know that we're

going to get it even better the 

next time.

The only I would just say in 

terms of all of your roles, that

education role is so critical.

I know voters not politicians, 

the network that you have is so 

vibrant and strong in different 

areas of the state.

To think of this as the next 

phase of your work to continue 

to be ambassadors and to be 

connecting the dots.

Most people don't care about 


The second you say that word, 

they might tune out.

What do your neighbors and 

family care about?

And help them to see how 

redistricting helps shape at the

end of the day, what their local

schools look like or what their 

parks look like.

Go to that level and back into 

the restricting because once you

make it personal for people, 

they will care.

But otherwise there's a very 

kind of small and eclectic group

of us that care about 


Please don't lead with that.

Very small and very eclectic.


Well, I observed as many did 

in 2018 the fact that there was 

an issue on the ballot without 

paid circulators.

That is incredible.

The only other group that can do

that today is the right to life.

I watched many, many ballot 

proposals come.

It cost well over a million 

dollars to put one on the ballot

to pay circulators to go out and

get signatures.

When I was an undergraduate just

a few years ago, I remember I 

could not convince my friends 

that where a line was drawn with

regard to an electoral district 

made a difference.

Look where we are today.

This went on the ballot and the 

turn out it engendered across 

party lines is one of the most 

significant movements.

My recommendation and advice to 

you all and your friends and 

neighbors, is one, don't get 

discouraged when as secretary 

Benson indicated, those forces 

will come out and try to derail 


There are already lawsuits.

There will be more.

That is you probably the only 

given that will walk out of this

room today.

There will be more lawsuits.

That's okay.

There's a process for that.

But don't be discouraged by 


As you learn about the community

of interest, you the more you 

talk about, the more you will 


Wow, it might be one as well.

If you see something that looks 

like a community of interest, 

don't just walk by it.

Talk to someone about it.

Raise it within your community 

as something people ought to 

rally around and take a real 

serious look at.

Quite honestly there's 

nothing to add.


Playing an active role if you're

not a commissioner is very 


This commission doesn't work if 

people don't show up to talk 

about what their communities are

and the way they believe those 

maps should look like.

One thing I will add, I had a 

couple workshops around the 

country just talking to people 

trying to draw a map yourself 

and talk about how difficult 

this process is inherently.

There's websites like where you can fill

in precincts based on where you 

think your community is and what

you think a legislative or 

congressional district is.

We did this in Utah with a 

couple people.

They were doing it everyone had 

like good aims and all this kind

of stuff.

It's really hard to actually 

draw some of these maps.

It's very much a give and take 

in terms of how these maps look.

One example we did was we said 

all right, you have to put one 

congressional district.

Salt Lake City has to be in one 

congressional district.

Utah has four congressional 


If you put Utah in one, every 

other district has to be one 


Woe to that representative to 

run from northern Utah to the 

southern tip of Utah.

I think that's important that 

people have a context for what 

challenges the commissioners are

dealing with to draw the maps in

a fair and transparent way.

Maybe it's not just about your 

particular community of interest

but the way you interact with 

other communities of interest.

Maybe you had representation 

that a particular community 


It's important for the general 

public to think about the ways 

that all of these things sort of

interact with each other.

I have one last question.

So Connie, this raises for me 

something you mentioned as we 

were preparing.

You said there are things the 

commission can do and also 

assist with.

To get the commission ready.

Because there is a lot of 

there's a lot of things that 

kind of interact with each 


There are certain exercises that

we can or the commission can go 

through to set itself up for its

best success.

One thing to came to mind is 

just being able to already know 

what census data looks like.

You know what it has and doesn't


The information about the 

economy, the geography, the 

history, et cetera, those are 

all things that already exist in

other places.

There's trade associations, 

there's chambers of commerce and

there's folks in communities to 

help fill those things out.

We had our mapping consultants 

provide us with regional 

snapshots as we would go into a 

region so we would be briefed 

before we went into a place to 

have an understanding.

Here's the main components of 

this community and we will 

probably hear this.

It also helped us to identify if

we read something in a report 

and heard nothing about it in 

the actual hearings, we needed 

to dig for more information.

There's a lot of information 

gathering that can happen in 

advance to be able to have the 

commission be prepared to 

receive the public testimony in 

a more informed way and those it

seems like there are strong 

partnerships with academia, with

different non-profit and 

community organizations to help 

to just get that going.

From VMPs, from my point of 

view, I'm thinking of like 

layered education too.

To the public.

That's great.

Thank you so much.

Secretary Benson, I know you 

have other engagements, I would 

like to invite you to be part of

the Q& A.

Sorry, I can't stay for the 

whole event.

If you have questions for me 

specifically, e-mail at 

[email protected].

If you have any questions, 

[email protected] is 

the e-mail.

[email protected] if 

you have questions.

I'm just [email protected].

You will hear back from me.

Sally, my team.

That's a way if you have further

questions you can reach out


Thank you so much.


now for Q and A.

We have ford school students who

will help us with the Q and A 


Hello my name is Nick NAGer.

I am a second year policy 

masters student.

Our first question from the 


How might you explain to a voter

who has never heard of a 

community of interest, how to 

express what a COI is and how to

map it.

And we had a couple around the 

idea is what if you are part of 

multiple communities of 

interesting and how do I balance

competing communities of 


So, I would say quickly that 

I worked with B & P on this with

having workshops on this.

What is your community?

We were talking with high school

kids or college students and I 

was just like, what is your 

community to you?

They had to actually, one made a

really good comparison where he 

talked about his high school.

He was like my community in high

school were the kids I played 

football with.

He talked about like and 

extrapolated from that.

I can understand a community of 

interest sounds the way you can 

have a conversation to broaden 

that out a little bit.

Yeah, I would add that being 

able to layer that with what do 

you need from your leaders?

Communities or communities that 

you're apart of, what do you 

have to gain or lose from your 

leaders being responsive to you 

and helps you drill down 

concretely as it leads to the 

political representation piece.

On the commission in California,

there's so many conflicting 


So many of us have different 

hats we wear.

Different perspectives or things

important to us.

At the end of the day, there are

judgment calls.

The goal is not everyone walks 

out thrilled with the maps.

That's not the way this works in

a democracy where we share space

and political power.

The goal is that we have a set 

of fair maps that everybody can 

live with.

I do think that as we all 

educate our communities around 

restricting, it's important to 

say that.

There are some who may think 

that my personal interests will 

be reflected, even as a 

commission, they were so many 

things that I might have 

individually done differently in

the maps that didn't make sense 

and you're trying to balance a 

whole diverse state and the 

different interests there are.

So we really tried to look at 

who has the most to gain or lose

and make sure that prioritize 

that in terms of how we were 

thinking about communities of 


If we actually had to choose 

between one community of 

interest or the other, and as I 

mentioned earlier, they were 

times when we were able to keep 

a communality of interest whole 

in one set of maps, say in the 

congressional or the assembly or

Senate but not in all three sets

of maps.

That gave us and flexibility as 

a commission to say, we're not 

going to be able to give 

everyone everything.

We want to make it fair.

Thank you.

I'm Sophia merchant, a first 

year master students.

What is the reasoning behind 

assigning such a huge priority 

for communities of interest and 

how will this reflect fairer 

democracy in Michigan?

As Tom mentioned at the 

beginning, our constitutional 

amendment draft and process it 

started with 33 town halls and 

had a lot of public input into 


On the voter side, we knew what 

we had and what we had were maps

that had no connection.

Where communities were targeted 

and split and cracked and packed

for political gain.

We went back all the way to like

elemental, what are these maps 

supposed to accomplish?

They are supposed to help us as 

the people who are living within

a geographical area who share 

some interest we want to see 

represented in government.

This was supposed to enable that

to happen.

That's why we elevated 

communities of interest above 

things like political boundaries

or other things that might have 

seemed to make sense maybe at 

and point.

But had become increasingly 

outdated and weaponized.

 This question is for miss 

Malloy specifically.

What is the FLIP side of your 

wine industry example?

How do you balance communities 

of interest without 

concentrating shared political 


I will give an example that 

is not an economic example but 

related to race.

In California, we have a very 

diverse population particularly 

in our urban areas.

We had to wrestle in a certain 

part of Los Angeles with how to 

design a set of congressional 

districts in a way that balanced

what had historically been a 

long standing African-American 

community that was now expanding

and having many more immigrants 

coming from Latin America and 

from Asia and pacific islands.

And there was differing opinions

on how to be able to do that.

Either opinions would have been 

completely legal.

One was that you give make two 

districts with African Americans

are the majority in the 


And the other option was to 

spread that same African 

American population out over 

three districts where they have 

an influence but they are not 

the majority within the 


And you know both options are 


Everyone on the commission may 

have had their certain opinion 

of what they think is most 

strategic for that community.

At the end of the day, the 

community of interest testimony 

is what made the decision for us

because the community was the 

one that told us we want the 

three district proposal.

Our communality has evolved.

We work in coalition more and 

don't want to be packed into two


That doesn't reflect who we are.

It was an example where if we 

had just looked at the maps, we 

may not have had the rich 

testimony that helped to drive 

our decisionmaking.

We would have thought that we 

would have been making the best 

decision on that community to 

give them yes, you got a 

majority in these two districts.

That's not really what they 

wanted or reflected their own 


It's an example where we 

actually divided a bit more.

So one audience wrote that 

many people worry that Americans

are becoming more insuLAR.

Is there any ideas that make us 

less able to compromise?

I think it's one where to the

point around communities of 

interest, very few of us even in

this room probably identify with

one community of interest.

With a definition as broad as 

shared social or economic 

interests, you know there's like

I am a mom.

I have kids in the public school


I own a home but I rented a home

for many years.

I care about my environment.

There's so many different cuts 

that you could take on what it 

is to have a community of 


I think one benefit of having a 

transparent public process.

The public showing up with their

individual opinions, they didn't

just leave with their own 

opinions, they were able to see 

and hear from their neighbors on

what they cared about and had 

the benefit of hearing us as a 

commission wrestle with how to 

integrate all of that 


Whereas the past, how 

redistricting was done.

None of that was aired.

There was a set of maps that was

behind closed doors.

The public didn't have a chance 

to weigh in.

They had to live with it.

If done right in a public 

process that is inviting and 

balances all of that, it's a 

step towards better 

understanding who our neighbors 

are and being able to work 

together in districts that 

balance all of our competing 

needs and aspirations.

I think that's 100% right.

The way the system was prior to 

the voters approving the 

constitutional amendment.

The lines were drawn in the back

room and less about what the 

economic and culture concerns 

with, but more with how people 

voted to make sure certainly 

politicians got certain seats 

versus what voters wanted during

the election.

That's something to think about.

I can understand critiques about

being insuLAR.

The hyper partnership we find 

ourselves in today is a 

reflection of the gerrymandering

that happened in 2011 in the 

first place.

In addition to public 

testimony from citizens, what 

role can data play in the 

commissioner's interpretation or

what role should it play?

It's critical.

And I think in Michigan, because

the commission is autonomous, 

the only thing you know if are 

sure is they're going to have to

use the census data.

It's up to the commission to 

decide what other information is

useful to be able to solicit.

The public can get ahead of that

and start to weigh in and have 

this information around what are

the important thing the 

commission should be looking at 

to complement that data.

Because of the high volume of 

information that's coming in, 

that being able to take 

advantage of new ways of 

Amassing information and doing 

data analysis while public 

testimony is coming in, will 

make it more manageable with the

time constraints and really 

trying to show up and do their 


At the end of the day, we have 

to prioritize communities of 

interest testimony as a type of 


I think we can often get into 

the binary where if it's not a 

number in the way that the 

census data is not data and it's

all different kinds of data 

The complexity of the job 

that the commission has to do is

how do you really merge both the

numbers and statistics with the 

story and the texture and the 

physical terrain of a place and 

that together makes a set of 

fair maps.

Let me make the note, data 

they will have when they begin, 

the bureau elections works with 

various folks in state 

government will be 10 years of 

election return data that gets 

based on census tracks and maps 

blocks and tracks.

That will be that data and it's 

also political data.

Nobody should be disabused of 

the fact that politics is still 


So each precincts carries some 

sort of political information 

attached to it.

And many of the communities of 

interest will also have a 

political identity.

So, you know that's you are 

never going to take it all out.

Just wanted to note this is 

the age of big data.

There's all sorts of data 


The commission will have the 

ability to access whatever data 

they want.

The difference is, in the new 

process, the public will know 

exactly all of the different 

sources of data that the 

commission has consulted when it

draws the maps.

So this will be the last 

question we have time for and 

it's directed to Mr. Thomas, 

what do you foresee is the 

biggest concern or biggest 

challenge that Michigan will 

encounter in implementing this 

new process?

Well, I think that just from 

procedures, they could probably 

use more money which is always 

the case and should be well 

funded to make it a success 

The voters of this state 


It wasn't a close election.

It's incumbent on state 

government to make sure that 

one, it's properly funded and 

two, that strings are not 


In terms of final result and how

that translates over into the 

elections themselves, it may be 

a little challenging.

I'm starting to see communities 

of interests be similar to 

jurisdictional lines.

Some will not follow given where

people live and how they spill 

out of.

You may look at one community 

and think, hamTRAMACK has a 

BENGALI population.

And then when that is a coupled 

with Detroit.

The districts will come out.

This is going to be a challenge.

And it will be a challenge to 

election officials to put 

precincts together.

But it's all doable.

It's just a different way of 

doing it.

The equipment and technology for

voting systems, is far superior 

that can handle precincts with 

multiple splits with electronic 

poll books.

There are challenges but we have

the direction from the voters 

and that's where we need to go.

Please join me in thanking the 




and well will be a reception 

immediately following this.

Thank you so much for your great

See you out there.