This webinar analyzes the testimony the Commission has received from citizens and Communities of Interest about their mapping preferences, a discussion of the timeline for creating final maps, and useful tips for the public. September, 2021.
Elizabeth Gerber: Good evening, and welcome to Policy Talks at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. I'm Elizabeth Gerber, I'm a professor at the Ford School. I'm also the director of the program in practical policy engagement, as well as a faculty affiliate at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, two of the co-sponsors of this evening's event. This is the third webinar in a series of four sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, Voters not Politicians, and Michigan State University's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.
EG: The purpose of these webinars is to educate and engage the public in Michigan's redistricting process. I'd like to thank all of the organizers and co-sponsors, including the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Bridge Magazine, The League of Women Voters of Michigan, the University of Michigan's Program and Practical Policy Engagement, and Detroit Public Television. Special thanks as well to Connie Cook and Charlie Beall from Voters Not Politicians for coordinating this great group of presenters today.
EG: Tonight's event will bring us up to speed on what has happened so far with Michigan's new approach to redistricting, and to focus on how stakeholders can best represent their interests in the final stages of the process as the commission prepares to receive the second and final round of public input. I hope you enjoy this evening's event. And now, it is my distinct honor to introduce our moderator, Sergio Martinez-Beltran of Bridge Magazine.
Sergio Martinez-Beltran: Thank you so much, Liz, and good evening, everyone. My name is Sergio Martinez-Beltran, and I'm a reporter with Bridge Michigan, and you saw a minute ago my dog, his name is Mambru. I cover state government and politics, but lately, I've been focusing on the redistricting process in the state. I have been able to follow the commission as they travel around the state, gathering input from Michigan residents, and I, along with other reporters from across the state, have reported on the commission's progress, its mishaps, and everything in between. So I'm excited to moderate this panel and I hope you all leave tonight with more clarity of what the redistricting commission is doing and with a better idea on how to participate in the process. At the end of the day, it was Michigan voters who supported a constitutional amendment that changed the way the state does redistricting, so, it's super important that you are all involved.
SM: Before we hear from our panelists today, let's briefly talk about the format we're following this evening. We'll begin the night with Sue Hammersmith, the executive director of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. She'll speak about where the commission is in the mapping process and what to expect from them in the next few weeks.
SM: Then Dr. Moon Duchin will talk about the online portal used by the commission for public input. Bob Chunn will follow and talk about his work with two communities of interest, the midline community and the LGBT community in the Detroit area. And then Dr. Hayg Oshagan will close the presentations by talking about how he's helped communities that share ethnic and racial similarities come forward and participate in the redistricting process. And then we want to hear from you tonight. We will have about 30 minutes for questions at the end. Some of you audience members already submitted questions when you registered for this panel, but you can also submit questions on YouTube and on Facebook, and if you're using Twitter, don't forget to use the hashtag policy talks. And just so you know, folks from Voters not Politicians will be answering some questions directly in their live YouTube chat.
SM: Alright, so, let's start. First speaking tonight is Sue Hammersmith. She is the executive director for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. In her role, she facilitates and executes the work of the commission to ensure fair and independent maps for Michigan congressional house and senate districts. Sue brings more than 30 years of executive experience in non-profits. She's nationally certified as a faculty trainer for The Association of Fundraising Professionals, and as a non-profit board consultant through Board Source. So, thanks so much for joining us tonight, Sue. Take it away.
Sue Hammersmith: Thank you so much, Sergio. I'm so delighted to be here this evening, and we so appreciate the sponsors who are helping the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to get the word out and let citizens know how they can have a voice in this process. Next slide, please.
SH: So the commissioners are 13 randomly selected citizens from over 9000 applications. These are the pictures of each of the commissioners, and they include four Democrats, four Republicans, and five who don't affiliate with either major party in Michigan. This group has the exclusive authority in the State of Michigan to draw the maps for the Michigan congressional and state house and state senate districts.
SH: What is redistricting? Redistricting is a process that happens every 10 years following census. The district lines have to be redrawn due to population changes. The process of drawing the lines is redistricting, and in Michigan, there will be 161 districts drawn for the 2022 election cycle. Why should you care about redistricting? Well, first, openness and transparency, and as well as public engagement, represent the principles of this new redistricting process. Now you have an opportunity to ensure your voice and your community's voice is heard. Instead of politicians choosing their districts to best represent their interests, Michigan residents can share their interests to assist in the development of the districts through the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, or as we say for short, MICRC.
SH: So here's the breakdown of the districts that will be drawn. Currently, Michigan's population according to the 2020 census is 10,077,331 people. The 161 districts include the 13 Michigan congressional districts. These have an average of 775,200 people per district. There are 38 Michigan senate districts, an average of 265,200 people per district, and there are 110 Michigan house districts with an average of 91,600 people per district.
SH: The redistricting criteria are stated very clearly in the constitutional amendment that was approved by the Michigan voters in 2018. These are listed in rank order, so the first is the most important down to the lesser important. So first, districts must be of equal population and comply with the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act is federal legislation that requires equal population, and it also prohibits minority or language discrimination.
SH: Secondly, districts have to be geographically contiguous. The lines have to be touching; they can't be random islands connected together. Third, districts need to reflect our state's diversity and communities of interest. The Constitution also defines communities of interest as groups that share cultural or historical characteristics or economic interest, but it also states we're not limited to those specific descriptions. Fourth and fifth apply to political parties or candidates. There can't be a disproportionate advantage to any political party, and the maps cannot favor or disfavor an incumbent elected official or a candidate for office. Sixth, maps must reflect consideration of county, city, and township boundaries. And lastly, they must be reasonably compact. It's a pretty tall order, but the commissioners are up to the challenge.
SH: So before the first line was drawn, the Constitution required that Michigan hold 10 public hearings. Our commissioners are overachievers, I like to say. They held 16 public hearings throughout the state, and they accepted public comments before any lines were drawn on the maps. It's not too late to share your public comments, we're still looking for comments from the public as the maps are drafted and proposed maps will be put forth before the second round of public hearings. We also have a public comment portal. You may go there and you may put in a map, you may draw a map and upload a map. You may put in comments on a map that exists. You may put in comments about your community of interest, or you may share any comments that you have about the redistricting process. Our website is michigan.gov/MICRC. We love to hear the public comments, and it's been very interesting watching all the public comments come in. It's been great.
SH: A little bit about the mapping process. Again, the commission is drafting maps for the 13 Michigan congressional 110 house and 38 senate districts. The commissioners consider public comments, including communities of interest, and are engaging in deliberations to determine which draft proposed maps will be presented for input during the upcoming second round of public hearings. The goals of the second round of public hearings, and again, these are listed in the Michigan Constitution, are, one: To solicit public comments regarding the proposed districts; two: Each proposed district shall include the census data, map, and legal description; and third, the Constitution requires five public hearings, but our commission has elected to do nine. Again, they're overachievers, they want to hear from you.
SH: So locations for the second round of public hearings include Monday, October 11th in Flint at the Dort Center; Tuesday, October 12th, at Treetop Resorts in Gaylord; Thursday, October 14th, at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. During the next week, we'll go to Grand Rapids and we'll be at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Monday, October 18th. The following day, we will be in Kalamazoo at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo Center, and then on Thursday of that week, October 21st, we'll be at the Lansing Center in Lansing. And then the last week of public hearings includes Monday, October 25th, at Macomb Community College in Warren; on Tuesday, October 26th, we just had a location change. We'll be at the Sheraton Detroit Novi in Novi. And on Thursday, October 28th, we'll be at the TCF Center in Detroit. We hope that you'll come out and join us and give your public comment.
SH: So a little bit about adopting the maps. After the public hearings, there will be more deliberations by the commission to develop proposed maps. There will be public notice of each plan that will be voted on, and then there will be an additional 45 days for public comment. A vote to adopt maps requires a majority vote that includes two members who affiliate with the Democrat Party, two Republicans, and two who are independents or affiliate with neither party. After that, the adopted maps will be published, and all the supporting material and data will also be published within 30 days, and the maps become law 60 days after publication.
SH: So what would we like from you? We would like you to show up and speak up. You can learn more information by signing up for email or text alerts on the website, michigan.gov/MICRC. If you want to see the proposed draft maps that the commissioners are working on, you can also go to the website, and there's a proposed draft map button right at the top of the website where you can view and comment on any plan that has been drawn by the commission.
SH: You can also mail comments to PO Box 30318 in Lansing, Michigan. If you need additional information, directions about a public hearing, times, additional details that you don't see on the website readily, call 1-833-You-Draw, that's 1-833-968-3729 for information or to learn how you can provide public comments at a regular meeting or at a public hearing. You can also like the commission on Facebook, follow them on Instagram or Twitter, subscribe to the YouTube channel. All meetings are on YouTube, you can watch the meetings live, you can watch recordings of all meetings and public hearings, you can submit your comments on the website and attend any meeting or public hearing. We invite you to participate in Michigan's new redistricting process. This is a historical opportunity to be on the ground level of the very first time there's been citizen input here in Michigan. Please, please give us your comments. Thank you.
SM: Thank you so much, Sue, for sharing that. Up next is Dr. Moon Duchin. Moon is a mathematician at Tufts University who runs the MGGG Redistricting Lab as part of the Tisch College of Civic Life. Her research group has specialists in math, computation, law, geography, and public outreach, and they have developed a Districtr software package for drawing districts and communities of interest. Their redistricting lab will be working in eight states in 2021 to assist commissions, legislatures, and parallel public processes with public infant collection and map evaluation. Duchin's work on the geometry of redistricting has been recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Recently, one area of research focus is the use of computing to enable districting that better comports with the aims of the Voting Rights Act. I'm excited you're a part of this panel, Moon. The floor is yours.
Dr. Moon Duchin: Okay. Thank you so much. Can you see my slide, and does it show in full screen?
SM: Yes, we can.
DD: Alright, great. So I'll just... I'll be brief. Let me take a moment to say a little bit about the way we got involved and the kind of projects that we have in Michigan, and I'll take you a little bit through the process of COI collection and aggregation, and then kick it to the next speaker. So first of all, we're a lab at the Tisch College of Civic Life, as you have heard. The MGGG stands for Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group, it started out as just a working group of mathematicians trying to think about democracy fixes and became a lab over the years, and now do a lot of work in both technology to promote democratic best practices and in some math and computation behind the scenes. And I think this project is a really excellent example of our mission, we've been really excited to be able to be part of this historic process. And so, we were brought in by MDOS, the Michigan Department of State, to assist with the collection and the aggregation of public input. Let me talk a little bit about what that looks like in Michigan.
DD: Okay, so, what we set up, and what I hope folks listening have already checked out, and if not, please do, is a public submission portal called michiganmapping.org, and what that is, it's a way to take public feedback that talks to our free public mapping software called Districtr. So, this is a screenshot from districtr.org that shows you an example, I'm gonna pull this off the portal, of someone who's drawing districts in Michigan, and we made this Michigan mapping portal talk to Districtr so that you could upload your comments in the form of districts or in the form of a community of interest.
DD: I was particularly interested in using technology to better access public mapping data, because looking hard... The idea that communities matter in redistricting is a really old one. It has a long pedigree in American democracy. It's kind of one of the founding justifications for drawing districts at all, is that when you draw geographical districts, you can capture local interests, and so you need to sort of know what those are in order to do the best job of drawing districts. So, Michigan is far from alone in having communities of interest in its rules and priorities and criteria.
DD: But the problem historically has been one of translating from people's ideas of community to something visible and actionable that can help guide your decisions when you're drawing the lines. So, we were really excited to sort of make a technological intervention there. We tried to make a really user-friendly mechanism for taking what you have to say about where you live and what makes it special, shared interests, animate that community. We wanted people to be able to attach that to a map, to turn it into the kind of data that you can view while drawing boundary lines.
DD: Okay, so let's take a walk-through. Well, first, let me say a little bit about what we collect. So you can draw a complete plan at any of the levels of districting: Congressional, state senate, state house, or you can just draw your community. In the community mode, you can draw overlapping communities and you can narrate what about them makes them distinctive. But then the portal has a feedback form that you fill out where you give your name, contact information, and more context about your submission. All of this is then stored in a secure database, which we are committed to making publicly available and to putting it in whatever form people need the data in that we can wrangle. So that's a bit about how the process works. I should emphasize that folks can draw in Districtr in all, as I like to say, 52 states. We have the official states plus Puerto Rico and DC available for drawing. And you can generate URLs, you can share them on social media, so Districtr has already been around for a few years, but the portal is a way to make a little bit of a more official declarative statement about what you are trying to tell the MICRC.
DD: Okay, so, this went extraordinarily well. [chuckle] So after we launched the portal, we sort of sat and waited anxiously, the Michigan one was the first one that we launched, we now have them in several states, we sat and waited anxiously to see if submissions would in fact come in, and they came in, they came pouring in, which I think is a testament to the good work of the commission, to the good work of the Department of State, and to group like Voters Not Politicians, who really just tapped wide interest among Michiganders in giving this kind of feedback. So, that's fantastic that we got submissions, but then that raises the question, what do you do with them? So, by the end of August, there were 1225 areas mapped in the portal. That's great, but then you have to figure out how to synthesize all of that information into something that's usable, because over 1200 areas is probably too many to think about or try to vet individually.
DD: So, I'll talk through the littlest bit about the data science process that we use to cluster these. So the first thing we did was try to measure overlaps, so if you have two different areas, you want something quantitative that tells you that these two areas are not quite as close as these two areas are. And so this is where you get to tap your mathematics, and we used something, we experimented with different notions of how close two areas are, and settled on something called house door assistance, and we used that to take all those 1225 areas and look at them two at a time and ask how close or how far are they.
DD: So using all those pairwise distances, that's how we distilled 36 geographical clusters. To this, I often get the question like, "Why 36? Why didn't you make 50 clusters or 20 clusters?", and the answer is that once you have all those distances worked out, you can cluster it as finely or coarsely as you want. So we experimented with different scales of clustering in order to produce the most usable product for the commission, and we felt good about the 36, but the raw data, as I'll link to at the end, is available for everyone, so I hope everyone on this webinar will try your hands at this as well.
DD: Then we had teams of students classify the submissions. So we read through all the submissions and all the texts that came with them and classified them with labels like agriculture, vulnerable populations, economy and commerce, and several dozen of these labels. The way we used those labels was, within a geographical cluster, we used a sorting technique to try to find thematically similar pieces within a cluster.
DD: Okay, so that's just a little bit about the process, but here's what it does for you. We have a final report set up for this, you can see it at the link at the top of this slide MGGG.org/publications/MichiganCOI.pdf. So here's just an example of a cluster we ended up calling C-14. We had an A phase of clusters, and then a B phase, and C is the final phase. So this is the Grand Rapids metro area, and it's supported by 55 submissions. And then what we do is we show these heat maps that illustrate where the clusters are, and then give a little blurb or summary of the major themes in the cluster. And then you can see, we took this Grand Rapids cluster 'cause it was fairly large, with 55 submissions, and we sub-sorted it into C-14 one and C-14 two. One of them was more about infrastructure concerns, talking about city schools; the other one was more suburban themes. But you don't have to take our word for it, because the report contains all the supporting data. So by clicking on where it says 55 submissions, you jump in the report to a table that shows you just all the raw, from the horse's mouth information that we distilled to make the clusters. So again, fully transparent, fully public, try it yourself. I think you'll probably come up with similar clusters, because the data did actually sort itself out fairly well. Okay, so that's what you can find in the report.
DD: So, let's sort of zoom out and ask the question, "What do you do with this sort of a user guide, how can this help us draw better districts?" Well, first of all, what does this represent? So, the submissions to the portal are a bottom-up look at the communities and lived experiences of folks from all over Michigan. In the past, people have either given post-hoc descriptions of the community structure of their districts. They'll draw the districts first and then say after the fact, "Oh, this one has the coal industry in common." So you could sometimes do a good job that way, but this is actually, right from the beginning, taking the feedback of individuals and knitting something together from individual feedback upfront before you draw the lines. So it's a bottom-up look at the communities and lived experiences. But these 1225 areas completely cover the state, and of course, redistricting is about drawing lines, so you're going to have to cut something somewhere. Districting is all about making choices. So since you have to split some of them, the clusters we hope can help you the public and can help the commission think about when and where to cut and how to amplify the voices of communities.
DD: Let me just underscore that for a moment, because most people, when they first start thinking about how to use communities to draw better districts, they have the intuition that if you wanna amplify the voice of a community, you should keep it whole, don't cut it, don't split that community. But sometimes a community is very large, if it's almost the size of the district. Then if you don't split it, you'll be actually packing that district with a single kind of shared interest and thereby arguably diluting the vote. So sometimes it is strategic to take a relatively large cluster and divide it. But having the clusters and being able to access their themes can really help you make informed decisions about when and where to cut. And I know that as the commission has done its work so far, they've often referred back to those individual submissions from the public. They sort of flipped back and forth between their map and what people have to say about it, and it's helped them make some calls about where to draw the lines.
DD: Okay, and so that's about where I'll leave it. I'll just say there are two things that are about to come to michigan-mapping.org as the commission produces its first round of plans that are ready for public comment. We'll have those plans hosted on michigan-mapping.org to make it easy for the public to view them, to give feedback on them and to modify them, if they want. The other thing that's about to appear on michigan-mapping.org is COI overlays, so you'll be able to see the districting plan and these areas, these clusters that I showed you, layed on top so you can see exactly how the district lines interact with the clusters.
DD: Alright, I've said a lot, so I'll leave it there. I'll close with some handy links: MGGG.org that you can find out more about our lab; michigan-mapping.org, that's the public portal. It interacts with Districtr. I already gave the address at which you can find our final report, Michigan COI PDF. And then finally, MDOS, the Department of State, is setting up a secure server that will host all the raw materials, and that's not yet set up, so in the interim, I created this tiny URL link so that you don't have to wait, if you wanna see all the raw data, all the CSVs and all those sheet files and all the JSONs, if you wanna see everything that went into this, I think transparency is key. So here's an address where you can go and find all those raw materials. Alright, I'll stop there and eventually look forward to your questions.
SM: Wonderful, thank you, Moon. And I think the Districtr is like a game-changer, at least. I've spent a lot of nights trying to draw districts, and I think if everyone has the opportunity to actually go to that website and try to draw the maps, you guys are gonna have a better understanding of how complicated it is to draw districts and how multi-layered it is, which I think it's something that we have to keep in mind.
SM: Alright, so our next speaker is Bob Chunn of Next Vote. Chunn is the president and co-founder of RelA2ve, which is a Michigan-based technology company serving non-profits, foundations, and political organizations with technology designed to engage and activate specific audiences for public policy and voting issues. We appreciate you joining us this evening, Bob. Take it away.
SM: Bob, you're muted. [chuckle] If you had...
Bob Chunn: I knew... I should have know I'd be the one to do that. [chuckle] Thank you, Sergio. So it's a pleasure to be here and to be talking about our work with communities of interest and the redistricting process in Michigan. So, we're a relatively new company. We were formed just last year, and we worked a lot during the election to get out the vote, and we specifically designed technology and found gaps where technology was a barrier for the public to get involved. And that communication technology led us to redistricting, and we saw some gaps here, too.
BC: So, Next Vote was formed at RelA2ve, and we've been working on redistricting all year. So some of the things that we've done are to make our own version of mapping districting and community of interest software, but we operate it, and we operate it on behalf of non-profits around the state, some 60 of them. And if you go to nextvote.us, you'll see our analysis of every map that has been submitted to the public portal up until the end of August, and we're working on the newest ones, and we've created our own versions of the MICRC's maps, where you can go look at. And these are Districtr-based maps, so you can go from our nextvote.us software over the Moon's districtr.org and see the maps in both of those places.
BC: So, one of the things that becomes part of our work as we analyze maps and we look for these criteria that Moon and Sue were talking about, we look for compliance to those things and specifically to communities of interest. So, I thought I'd tell a story of a couple of communities of interest that we have worked with this year. So, LGBT Detroit, which is based in Palmer Park, that's their community, and what we do for them is to sit with them, we hear their story about the fact that they are an LGBTQ community and they are also minorities and mostly Black, and they suffer from a whole suite of issues related to gentrification and people taking over their community in Detroit, and they really wanna be able to vote together. So this is important to them, and the problem that they have is of communicating to the Redistricting Commission where they are and what they're about and why it's important that they get to stay together and vote together.
BC: And so, we sat down with Geron Troton, who's a good friend at LGBT Detroit and we help him to draw his map. And we actually used our software at Next Vote to do it over a Zoom session, and then we helped to coalesce their story to tell the narrative of LGBT Detroit, and if you look on the public portal, it's called Palmer Park 2.0. We help to tell their story, and then we go out and we use our communication tools to gather support for them. So you'd find that LGBT Detroit has the most comments of any community of interest or map on michigan-mapping.org, which is the place where everybody is talking about redistricting, that's the MICRC's and Moon's work to make it easy for us all to communicate what our communities need.
BC: And the second community of interest that I wanna bring up is around the tri-city area, and this was some of our earliest work, working with many different groups who felt that the tri-city area ought to stay together and vote together. They suffered environmental issues with the Edenville Dam collapse, which we learned a lot about, that affected Midland but it also affected the communities to the south. And in that area of Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City, they used to call it the tri-city airport that was one of the few international airports in our state. Now, it's named something else because that community no longer votes together. And so, we help them to make arguments, many different groups, that the tri-city area was not just a district but it was a community of interest who all work together. They go to school together at two great state universities, they have environmental concerns that they share and economic concerns that they share. And the way that it works out, and there's cases that most of the time, the maps that the MICRC are producing have kept those two community of interest whole.
BC: So our work extends beyond just creating the maps. We're watching every map that gets produced, and we're offering alternatives of district maps that do better at keeping communities of interest together and that are fairer maps. So I hope you'll visit nextvote.us and see what we're doing there, and I'll turn it back to you, Sergio.
SH: Thank you, Bob, I appreciate it. Alright, so our last speaker is Dr. Hayg Oshagan, but before I introduce him, I wanna remind people to post your questions and submit them on Facebook or YouTube and you can also use the hashtag policy talks on Twitter to submit your question. Alright, so, Hayg does a lot of things. He is a professor at Wayne State University and the founder and executive director of New Michigan Media, that's the network of ethnic and minority media in Michigan. New Michigan Media includes the publishers of the largest African-American, Arab, Jewish, Latino, and Asian newspapers in the Detroit Metro area, and it is also connected with over 140 minority media across the state. His most recent efforts include assisting the State of Michigan on their 2020 census to reach minority communities across the state, getting information out to minority communities on the COVID-19 relief and the PPP and the vaccine, and helping the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, Voters Not Politicians, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association with regional and statewide redistricting efforts. Thank you, Hayg, for joining us tonight and we're excited to hear what you have to share.
Dr. Hayg Oshagan: Thank you Sergio. Yes, my slide show's there. Thank you, thank you again for the organizers as well for the invitation. So my concern, as made apparent by the intro, has been minorities, ethnic and racial. And so I approach the redistricting issue from that perspective, in terms of community of interests, but in this case, specifically ethnic and minority communities of interest. And the approach is actually also from a perspective of the media and the role that the media can play in redistricting. This is the map of our state, and the darker areas are the concentrations of minorities in Michigan. And you can see that by the 2020 census, 27% of the state is comprised of ethnic and racial minorities, and this is likely an under count because a number of them don't show up unless people fill in the census in particular with their ethnicity or race.
DO: New Michigan Media as Sergio mentioned, is a collaboration. It's a collaboration of the largest minority papers in the southeast Michigan, and also a connection with the broad, vast array of ethnic and minority media across the rest of the state. The importance here with media, especially in these sorts of efforts, is that these media constitute trusted voices in their communities. They are often leaders in their communities, the publishers of these papers are active leaders in their communities. The publisher of the Arabic paper in Detroit, for example, is a kin to a mayor of that community. They are advocacy voices of their communities, they are trusted by their community members, and so, what they say carries a great deal of weight. What they pursue or promote often goes much further than what an official might say, a governor or a mayor might say. And so the use of these resources in advancing initiatives, like the census and like redistricting, is important for these in particular, the ethnic communities, across the state. And so that's been my engagement.
DO: The experience I gained in this, in particular was with the census itself. MNA and the State of Michigan, Michigan Nonprofit Association and the State of Michigan, came to us as the Detroit, the city in Wayne County, to work on the census and help promote participation across the state from down here, all the way up to Marquette with Native American tribes. And the conversations I had with tribal leaders, with publishers, editors across the state, which I organized to understand better the lay of the land, as it were, really helped inform what are the challenges and how to understand information and action in the context of these communities. In fact, as also was mentioned, we helped in the formation of the commission itself. At the beginning, well, a month ago before the application process was to close across the state, 67,000 people had applied, but there were only 50 Latinos, for example, who had applied. Michigan Department of State came to us and said, "Can you help?" And so we organized campaigns in the Bengali, in the Arab, in the Latino communities to help minorities apply to even be considered to be selected for the commission.
DO: The statewide plan for redistricting was put together after the commission itself, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Voters Not Politicians, asked us to be involved in the process, in particular, MNA and MICRC. We adopted the census approach to doing this work. Oops, the other way. It's a vast state, and so you need to begin by focusing on where minorities live. And for redistricting, the focus became, for this effort, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Jackson, Marquette, Traverse City, and Benton Harbor. The populations that we targeted as well for the redistricting process were Black, Arab, Yemeni, and Sinsleada Yemeni because it's a very distinct community in the Detroit area. Chaldean, Asian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Korean, Caribbean, Hispanic, and Native American.
DO: The second issue of course, then is to figure out the messaging. It's not a simple thing to just say, "You need to participate in redistricting." First, the language issues has to be considered, but most importantly, the relevance has to be taken into account, why should anyone participate in redistricting? What would it make... What difference would it make to them? This was seriously also the case with the census, this is one of the lessons that we learned, that it's not enough to just put a message out there and assume people will understand its relevance. It's important to actually really explain, parse out the relevance of a project for someone to take time and work at. And then the outreach plan itself. Newspapers, radio, online, Facebook groups, we access about 40 plus of these different outlets, advertising editorials, digital content, meetings, email, texts and then finally, I'll talk about this in a bit, organizing events as well.
DO: The challenge... I keep going to the wrong direction. The challenge with redistricting starts with the census itself. This is the question in the census for race. And what's missing here, for example, in particular for my case in southeast Detroit, is that there is no Arab category. There's no Middle Eastern and North African MENA category that the census rejected. And so someone would have to write, then, Arab, or Lebanese, or Yemeni, for it appear, and we know people don't do that very often. The second thing that's missing from this is Bangladeshi. You have the Asian categories there, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Samoan, Chamorro, and Native Hawaiian, but no Bangladeshi, which is a 40,000, 50,000 person community in the metro area, the second largest in the United States. And so they would have had to write that down, too. They would just show up as Asian, and Arabs just show up as white, essentially, in the census. And so, we had a challenge here, because they wouldn't just show up like Latinos might and Blacks and others might show up.
DO: The second challenge, though, beyond the census, is that, this is the map of our area here, and each of these dots is a census data point from the 2010 census, to give you an idea of the census issues. The green is the Black population of Detroit area; the blue is the white population of Detroit area; the orange is the Latino population; and the red is the Asian population. And as I was saying, the Arab population is around the Detroit area, but they show up entirely as white in the census figuring. The Latino population, Hispanic population, does show up as orange in southwest Detroit, but the Bangladeshi community, which is the Hamtramck area, is red, as any other Asian community is. In the Clarkston and in Bloomfield Hills, and Troy, and Rochester area, those Asian communities are primarily Indian communities. So the census doesn't differentiate, and this was a challenge to exactly figure out how to explain to the commissioners where people lived.
DO: The fundamental issues, though, beyond the census are these: The community challenges for minority communities is, to begin with, the lack of knowledge on processes is very often, particularly distant in terms of these sorts of processes. There's also a lack of efficacy, that is, the sense, the perception, that "My vote doesn't count, my voice is never heard, what difference does it make if I participate?" And finally, a lack of trust, that is, "Even if I do participate, it's not going to matter because the system is already set up. And that we don't trust politicians to do anything for us anyway." These were serious challenges to overcome for the census, and they appeared as well for redistricting. And it's not the same for everyone. Latinos have different issues of trust, for example, than Native Americans do. Speaking with Native Americans, it became clear, for example, that the memory in the elders of the community of the US government coming and forcibly taking children away to the boarding schools against the wishes of their parents is a lingering memory of mistrust with the US government and anything that the government promotes. Whereas for the Latinos, for example, the mistrust is mixed with fear of being somehow fingered and threatened by agents. So the mixture is different but is there for all of them.
DO: The redistricting required additional issues than the census development. Here, it wasn't just a matter of convincing people that "Look, this is important, it's coming in the mail, just fill it out and send it back, it's simple." Here, what needed to happen was people had to actually come together and figure out, "What is our community of interest?" Leadership had to be formed, political leadership, to actually bring people together and start discussing issues of identity. The Black community has Afro-Caribbean, has West African, has Senegalese, their issues of identity are not so simple to figure out just from a distance. And so these had to be figured out as well in the conversations.
DO: And finally, the ask here is much higher than fill out 10 questions in the census; the ask here is to actually go make public comment at some center that the commission is meeting at. The ask here is actually to learn Districtr, which is a great program, by the way, and it's simple, but still, relatively a technological challenge to overcome at some point, I had to figure it out myself, to ask people to actually go and draw a map and then submit it. These were much higher asks than were required by the census, and so these were serious challenges in this process of working on redistricting. So, what we ended up doing was we ended up putting together a campaign that comprised partly of advertising, as I mentioned, in Arabic, Bengali and Spanish. We spread the messaging across the State of Michigan to 40 plus outlets. There wasn't a budget for more than 40 for this effort.
DO: In terms of messaging, it became essential to create relevance here, and relevance wasn't just fair elections. What we hear most often in conversations about redistricting is that this is a fair way to run elections. And it's true, it is, obviously, but for the communities that I am dealing with, for Arab, Latino, Bengali, and others, the point wasn't fair elections as much as it was community resources, access to resources. That is, making that connection, that if you have voice, you can elect someone to speak for you in the Michigan house, you can elect someone to speak for you in the Michigan senate in the US congress, and that's the only way or a prime way of making sure that you get the resources that you need for your communities, whether it's small business development grants, whether it's English as second language resources, whether it's mental health resources, whether it's issues of pollution. Wayne County is one of the most polluted counties in America, and the Arab community has wanted pollution controls, the Latino community has wanted pollution controls, they haven't been able to get them.
DO: This is the way to do it. This redistricting is about having resources for your home communities. This is the best way to ensure that your voice is heard. This became the key messaging that I was able to put together. And in addition, I went and created maps to try to understand and show people where they were and how they were spread up. I will go through them very quickly for you. This is the house, current, not the proposed ones, this is the current house maps of southeast Michigan. The horizontal lines is the Latino community, the dotted box in the middle is the Arab community, and the Bengali community is the small one on the right. You can see the Latino community currently is spread across two house districts, and so that is 70,000, 80,000 people split into two, 40,000 voices each half as powerful as otherwise. The Arab community is spread across multiple house districts. Here is the Michigan senate in southeast Michigan. The Latino community now is split across three senate districts, the Arab community is split across two senate districts, and the Bengali community is within one. And then this is the Michigan congressional area for US Congress. The dotted ones here is the Black community. You can see how the Black community is packed, by the way, into two congressional districts.
DO: But here, the Latino community is spread across two congressional districts, the Arab community is across two congressional districts, and the Bengali community that's extended northward is spread across two different congressional districts as well. This was a way to bring the point home that this is how we are split up. This is how our voice gets diluted, this is how you lose a chance to speak up. So, it wasn't enough, though, just to have the advertisements. We organized meetings, we organized events, we organized public talks. I probably gave six to seven talks to the Bengali community. This is the Bengali community as they have identified it, going from Hamtramck up to Warren or Warren area all the way up more or less to Sterling Heights. And the Arab community, we met together a number of times and put together the map of the Arab community. This is the self-identified map of the Arab community, this is the map that's been, sent more or less, this map, to multiple times to the commission for them to consider. This was the only way for Arab community to identify themselves, was to do it and to show it; otherwise, it would show up as White to the commissioners.
DO: The Latino community, similarly, a number of times, a number of meetings, a number of conversations, personal conversations, people sent emails, text messages to each other, it became really an organizing effort, a political effort, to create engagement and activism, and it worked incredibly well with the Bengali community, that at one of the public hearings, 20 different people came and took voice to tell the commission where the Bengali community was. I can show you very briefly the results, and I'm actually grateful to the commission for taking into account these voices. These are some of the preliminary maps that they have drawn. This is the old on the left, and the new on the right. You can see that that for the house district, the Latinos are now in a single house district, the Bengalis are in a more or less house district, and the Arab community is across mainly two house districts as opposed to the old splits.
DO: This is the senate, the proposed senate districts. The Latinos are, again, a one Senate district, which is the way it should be. The Bengalis are now across the eighth district in a single district going northward, and the Arab community is across primarily two senate districts, but really in the 10th district, which is, sorry, the ninth district, primarily the green one, and to some extent, the 10th district, but the Arab community is in one district as well, which is really what they wanted also. This is the US congress, and here it's also well done. The Bengalis and Latinos are in a single district and the Arab community is in a single district as well.
DO: This is how it should be. This is what I expected out of the redistricting process if it were fair. This is what American democracy is about when it works. As I would say during my speeches in a number of these cases, is that someone is going to make a decision, and unless you are at the table and your voice is heard by others, the decision will not take you into account. We have a beautiful and powerful democracy as a system, but it needs engagement, it needs participation, it needs the voices to be heard, and this was a way for minority communities across the state, especially in southeast Michigan where I really work hard with New Michigan Media, this was the way to make the redistricting work for minority communities. Well, that's it, I went through it quickly, I apologize about the... We were given 10 minutes, so I hope it made sense, thank you.
SM: Thank you, Hayg, and that was great, and I think there is so much to impact there with what you said, so, I wanna go back to you in a minute when we start doing questions and answers. All the other panelists are also with us, they're ready to answer some of your questions. I want to remind you all that, again, we wanna hear for you, so if you have not submitted your question, please do it on the YouTube chat or the Facebook chat, and you can use the hashtag policy talks to submit your question via Tweeter, and I love saying the hashtag thing because it just sounds pretty cool.
SH: Alright, I wanna start with questions with Sue because I think it might be on top of mind for many folks, and it's about timeline and whether the commission will meet their timeline, right? So we know the commission just completed its drafts for house, senate, and congressional districts. There are still a couple of things that need to happen like the draft maps need to go through a partisan fairness evaluation, as well as voting rights act evaluation, but the clock is ticking for you all, and as you know, Sue, the deadlines are quickly approaching. We've heard commissioners are feeling a little bit nervous about the deadline, they've talked about potentially cutting down the number of hearings for the second round or maybe pushing the November 5th deadline a little bit farther down the road. Can the audience be confident that the commission will have finalized maps by the end of the year? 'Cause that's the goal, by at least December 30th, it's the first day you guys can vote for the final map, so, with all these deadlines approaching, can the audience be confident that there will be maps by the end of the year? Oh, Sue, you're muted.
SH: Okay, it was my turn.
SM: There you go.
SH: The commission is working very hard and is being given the resources that they need in order to draft the map. So, again, they have a timeline, they have a schedule, they will meet that December 30th vote. That is very necessary for the Board of Elections to do their work in order to host... So candidates know what district they live in, they wanna know where they can run for office and where people can be involved in voting for them. So, yes, the work has to be done by December 30th, that is our goal, that's the end in sight, and we're going to continue to work toward that goal. They're working very hard, they're doing everything they can to do their job well. Hayg, you gave me chills when you thanked the commission for taking that public comment in and acting on it. That's exactly what they're doing, they're taking communities of interest into consideration, they know the criteria that's listed in the constitution, they're utilizing that criteria in a non-partisan manner. I'm pleased with the way they work together in drafting maps. They're a wonderful group of people that are really, really committed to the process and committing to getting the job done. So, they will get the job done.
SM: Alright. And talking about deadlines, Sue, we know the commission has already been sued for not meeting the constitutionally-mandated deadline for draft maps, which was September 17th. And I think there is this expectation, and it's fair to say, there is this expectation that the commission will be challenged again once the draft maps are voted and are put out. So, curious to know, how will lawsuits against the MICRC will affect the timeline but also the adoption of the maps.
SH: I don't think they'll have any impact on the work of the commission. So, no matter what comes their way, the commission is committed to the end goal, and that is to have a final vote on maps on December 30th. Prior to that, there will be a 45-day period of public comments, so, the schedule has been built to make sure that all the work gets done within that time alloted.
SM: So the commission is not expecting lawsuits to impact their work?
SH: I think they have the goal in sight. They're gonna continue their work one foot in front of the other every day as they meet to draft maps and make sure they get the work done. They're committed to listening to the people of Michigan, they're committed to doing the job, and they're committed to following the criteria in the constitution in an open and transparent manner.
SM: Wonderful. And Bob, I have a question for you. You've been working with, like you mentioned, many communities here in the state. I'm curious to know, what has been the biggest challenge for you and your group as you try to convince these communities that you work with that they have to get involved and that it's important that they submit the maps but also show up at the hearing?
BC: Well, we're fortunate in that we mostly work with nonprofits who have organized themselves, and are coming with both the idea of where they are, so a lot of the populations that Hayg was talking about are working with nonprofits to help them to basically tell their story. And so, we're not having to chase people down. There are many, many groups out there who really wanna tell their story, and I think there's challenges with any kind of technology. I'm a technology entrepreneur, I face this every day, which is you can't make a perfect piece of software for every person in society. And so, there are just challenges there that people have to overcome. And so that's why we really decided to take a step back, and instead of putting our software forward, we provide a service. And that is to sit down and take away the technological barrier for people and operate it ourselves, make the maps with them, send them drafts. And we tell them that "You can print out this map and draw on it with a crayon, and I will send back another version to give you what you want."
BC: So, we're fortunate that we're working with such a great group of people, but I think one of the biggest challenges that we face is not just, "Do you wanna get involved and do a map?", but "What happens next?" So, questions about how will the redistricting commission take into account all of these communities of interest that are being submitted, some of them good, some of them bad. And how will they delineate between all of those things? And so that's why we take the further step of helping them to not just explain their story, make their map, and we submit it. I operate Districtr every day, I'm on the michiganmapping.org every day, and so we do that work on behalf of these communities of interest.
BC: But they wanna know what happens next. And that's not entirely out of our control, we help them to go gather support from their community, so they become kind of a representative. And many of these groups, as Hayg was talking about, they work across... The Arab community is not just one group of people, as Hayg was saying, they work across many. And so, what do they get out of it becomes a big question. We gather support and ask for people to go, if they support the ideas of this community of interest, go and make a comment so that the commission can know that this map doesn't just sit out there unattended to amongst the thousands of others that have been submitted. But "This one's important, we have support for our community of interest. It's not just me speaking."
SM: Right, and Hayg, I wanna go to you. Bob mentioned some of your work, and I wanna go to something you said earlier in your presentation, which is the fact that communities of color and immigrant communities, many of them are not aware of this redistricting process because they have been left out of many political processes. But there has also been this historical fear of, for example, filling out the census, and now you're asking them to go in front of a commission, which is an arm of the government, and present and tell them what they would like to see. So, can you share a little bit, have you been able to help these communities overcome that fear? And also relate, again, if you can go a little deeper on how can you make them relate to this redistricting process, which, as a reporter covering redistricting, we know it's not the sexiest topic out there. So how can you help them make them relate to it?
DO: We worked hard. There was no magic wand to wave and something magic to say and that it would take care of it. It was a lot of work, and a lot of, as Bob said, a lot of community organizations, nonprofit service agencies, social service agencies, all worked to get the word out. And yet, you have to realize that this is both a technological ask that's kind of high and learning the Districtr or any program to put the map. And even with all the ways in which it's been made to be easier, it's still a challenge. And then as you mentioned, the overall fear or lack of trust, mistrust of anything that's federal that is going to actually come home to help them. We worked really, really hard on the census, and yet Detroit's response rate was 51%.
DO: But we also worked really hard in Hamtramck, and that response rate went from 50% to 70%. So, you do the best you can, and there's just no easy way to overcome the historical... The remnants of history in people's memories, recent and old. When you see treatment of Haitians, for example, at the border, and we have a few thousand Haitians in the area, and they live nearby, and we publish... I placed a messaging in the Haitian newsletter to get them to participate in redistricting. But it was very, very difficult to get even one person to come to a public comment session or have a few maps submitted.
DO: We also realized something, though, that's important that I meant to mention, Sergio, is that we assume... And a lot of these communities are run by community organizations. They're sort of the leaders that run these communities. The assumption had been that if, let's say, one of the leading community organizations submitted a map, that that map would be given more importance because it came from a leadership organization. But we learned eventually that that's not the case, that all the maps are simply added together in some kind of a pile to see a pattern. And so, switching tactics to send as many as we could became the approach, but it's not the way people had thought of this. That is, people have thought if ACCESS, for example, the big social service agency in Detroit, sends a map, or if DHDC, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, sends a map, because it represents so many people, because it's a leadership organization, that its map would be given sort of prominence or preeminence in some fashion. But knowing and learning that that wasn't the case, actually, was difficult in some ways, and we had to figure ways to overcome it by adding numbers to it.
DO: But yes, these communities are all different and they all share certain reluctance to participate in the democracy systems that we have to their detriment. And learning that, I think, made a difference. Understanding how they would be deprived of resources if they didn't participate, and seeing how their voice had been cut in half or in a third on a map, I think helped make them willing to take the time and do it.
SM: Thank you, Hayg. I wanna pivot to Moon here. I've read the reports that MGGG and you have put out for the commission, and by the way, everyone can find those reports, their weekly reports, on the commission's website. And there, we can see how you've been able to capture communities of interest and have submitted comment. And at some point, Moon, we've seen that from one week to another, there was an increase, an exponential increase, in submissions, and then we saw another increase and another increase. You work with other states, I'm curious to know if that increase in submissions of communities of interest have surprised you, and also, how do you compare the COI participation in Michigan with those in other states?
DD: Sure. So let's see. So, first of all, across the different states we're working in, there are a few things that drive numbers and submissions. And one of them is, even in this COVID moment, in-person meetings tend to be real drivers. So for instance, one week, we saw a huge number of submissions coming from Midland, and then looked it up and found that there had been a community meeting there. And I think that's great. What happens is that there's still a lot of power to people getting together, talking through the tool, how it's supposed to be used, how it's gonna have a downstream impact on political power. And then people go home and submit. So, that's one kind of driver.
DD: Another one is, at a certain point, there was a big imbalance in the Michigan portal especially compared to some of the other states we were working with, where really, the vast majority in the early weeks of submissions to the portal were written testimony. So there's three different kinds of submissions you can make that are primary submissions: You can make a written comment, you can write down anything you would say at a microphone in a public hearing, you can draw redistricting plan, whole or partial, or you can draw a community of interest. And what we were seeing was well over half of the submissions were of the written kind. Within those, many of them were actually just verbally describing what would ultimately be a COI, a community of interest. So, one thing that we did was ask the commission if they would like to reach back out to the written submitters and invite them to map their submission. And then we worked with MDOS to draft an email, and sent an email out to all the people who had submitted written testimony, inviting them to come to training sessions.
DD: This is another piece, as you heard from all the other presenters, any new technology, new or old, any technology has a certain barrier to entry, and that's definitely true of public mapping software. So we've been holding training sessions, multiple, free, and open training sessions, a week, we're still doing them, and some in English, some in Spanish. We have training materials, we have videos in not only English and Spanish, but also for other parts of the country, in Haitian Creole and Navajo. And so, a big part of making a tool accessible is putting in the time to work with people and show them how to take their ideas and turn them into pixels.
DD: So, that was another huge turning point in the types of submissions we saw in the portal. Once that message went out to the written submitters, a huge uptick in the number of mapped submissions followed. So that's been cool to see, how different kinds of activities and different kinds of portal activity can be traced back often to a cause. You also asked about some of the differences in different states. So besides just volume, and besides the type of submissions, which I also just referenced, I think one of the interesting differences that we've seen across states is whether we see submissions that are presented as originating with many different individuals, or whether we see community and grassroots organizations organizing submissions and maybe having a drive to gather a lot of testimony, and then having an individual from the organization batch submit on behalf of many organization members.
DD: In Michigan, this sort of balance was all the way over towards the individual, so there were many, many individuals and not a lot of patterns that indicate batching or grouping by organizations. It was still clear in a number of places that there had been a drive to organize people, sometimes to say similar things. I think this is worth mentioning, too, because it highlights one of the challenges, which is, how do you weigh all of these submissions against each other? I think early on in the process when the MICRC was meeting and reviewing them, there was a little bit of an inkling early on that they would give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the various submissions. And they quickly learned what I think every group learned when they tried to do that, which is that, it's just really hard to draw the line between something that matches what you were looking for, and something that's a little bit different. And so, ranking or rating the submissions doesn't turn out, I think, and neither did the commission think, doesn't turn out to be very productive. So, there's a little bit more of a question of aggregation rather than sorting, right?
DD: So I'll just mention one example that I thought was interesting. We actually saw... And I can show this as well. So we actually saw quite a number of submissions coming from the Ohio border, just maybe a little south of Ann Arbor. And here, I'll share my screen if I can get that working again, and show you what I mean. So if you take a look here, you'll see this big red blob, heat map, which is, in this case, 117 submissions all coming from a similar area. And even when we tried to sub-cluster them, they were just very similar to each other both... Take a look at how similar this sub-cluster looks to this one. So we were finding them to be very similar both geographically and in terms of many of the things they said. And then a little bit of looking around let us trace back to some tweets indicating that there may have been kind of a campaign behind this.
DD: Thing I wanna say about this that I think is interesting and important is that the existence of the campaign doesn't make the testimony a illegitimate. In fact, when you're talking about community, you're talking about groups, and so it makes perfect sense that people would band together and think through the themes together and think about what to say, but it does give you an interesting question later on when you're using all of this input, how to weight those things. And so, this is why we end up thinking that a method of clustering lets you see the themes from 10,000 feet up. You get to see an overview, you get to see kind of how things hang together and where they're different. So, that's just a little bit of the thought process that went into categorizing and ultimately summarizing all the different kinds of inputs that we saw.
DO: Yeah, Sergio, if I can just add, this is exactly what we did, what Moon is saying. The Arab, for example, map, was [1:16:44.9] ____, was developed, and then the link, the Districtr link that comes out when you save it. Everyone took it and sent it to their network of people and encouraged them to send this link and then send it to your friends, and I think there were a number of Arab maps that came in after we did that. But that was... And yes, there's nothing wrong with it, just as Moon said, I think this is the way to engage people, and this is the way to take advantage of networks that are densely interconnected.
SM: And then Moon, you mentioned a campaign doesn't make the submissions illegitimate; it gives an idea of where people are. I'm wondering, maybe Sue can also weigh in here, if it makes these communities sound a little bit more powerful, because now you have 117 submissions instead of three or four.
DD: Yeah, no, that's a great point and it's one that we thought about it a lot. People ask us all the time... And I also should mention a little bit more about us. So besides the folks in my lab, we also have collaborators around the country through a group we call the Open Maps Coalition. So we had faculty collaborators from Ohio State University, from St. Louis University, and from WashU in St. Louis, from Notre Dame. We have sort of a network of collaborators. So I wanna shout out, this was really a group effort. And one of the things we really thought about is, people in redistricting love metrics. They love scores and ways that you can measure how good of a job that you're doing or flag maybe a really problematic kind of map. And so we thought really hard about whether there should be a COI score, that kind of thing, and ultimately decided that for a lot of the reasons that have been discussed already, you can certainly make something numerical to help you think about it, but ultimately, it's really gonna be holistic.
DD: I think if you... Here, again, I wanna say, when we started out, it wasn't clear to me whether the raw individual areas, like the individual polygons that each person had submitted, would be the most useful object at the end of the day, or whether these clusters would play a big role. And I think the jury is still out on how the commission will ultimately end up interacting with all this data. We just tried to give them options for different ways of interacting with the data. But I will say this: I think if you just get down to a counting game, like, "This cluster has 117 submissions, and this one has only 22. Is this one that much more important than the other?" I think that that's a misleading metric, it invites astro-turfing. I would prefer to see something qualitative happening. I think that campaigns and coordinated grassroots efforts can be quite valuable. I think an individual sitting down and dreaming something up and writing it on their own behalf can be really powerful. But a metric, at the end of the day, if you do wanna count splits of these kind of submissions, in my judgment, that would be a better idea at the cluster level than at the end of a dual submission level, because you don't wanna turn it into like...
DD: Any time you set up a metric, you have to think about how it will be gained, and that's just universal. Anytime you have a score, you have to think about the incentives that it creates. And if you have a score here that overly relies on counting submissions, then you're creating an incentive for behavior that may or may not most fully reflect what people in groups wanna say. So I do think a level of aggregation gets you somewhere productive when it comes to submission like this.
SM: Wonderful. Sue, I wanted to ask you, on Friday, the maps are supposed to be evaluated for, or starting to be evaluated for, partisan fairness. Can you talk to us a little bit about that process and what is the expectation? Are we expecting the lines to potentially change after they go through this evaluation process?
SH: So, on Friday, Dr. Lisa Handley will be with us to work on partisan fairness measurements. She will be using three measurements. Those are lopsided margins, the mean, median difference, and the efficiency gap. However, realizing that these are the fourth and fifth criteria for the maps that are being drawn, and communities of interest is a much higher criteria, it will be very interesting and challenging for the commission to take in this information and then determine if they should adjust lines that have been drafted. And again, they're in a drafting process right now. And even when they go out on the road for the public hearings, these are draft proposed maps. They're going to continue to take public comment. So, they will continue mapping until they get to the point where they will have proposed plans.
SM: Wonderful. Bob, I wanna go to you and I wanna hear from you here, because there's this question about packing. We hear this term often, and I'm wondering if you can discuss how complicated it is to avoid packing of community self-interests into a limited number of districts, for example, because we've heard that that could reduce the communities of interest's power, but we've also heard from some people who want to consolidate power as a community of interest. So how do you balance that? Bob, you're muted. [chuckle]
BC: It's an incredibly complicated question, and it almost never gets the attention that it entirely deserves because people try to compartmentalize the different criteria, that the partisan fairness is more important, which is really what we're talking about if we're talking about packing and cracking, although it also can break up a coalition of a race, like two Black majority districts in Detroit, and there hasn't been one draft by the commission that gives that second Black majority district today. And so, you conflate that with communities of interest, which cross over these boundaries. It's super complicated, but I don't have the answer. But I'll tell you, I think who does is in the public portal. And we're talking about... Sue was talking about these steps earlier, and Moon, how many submissions have been made. We see maps in there that answer the question of how to keep two Black majority districts in Detroit with greater than 50% majority and have a map over [1:24:02.2] ____ submitted by a citizen.
BC: And I think we would be doing a huge disservice to communities of interest to put them in buckets of numbers and not look at their stories individually, because there are fantastic stories in there, and I've read 500 of them myself. So I think that the answer is not to put all of the work and trust into 13 people who've never mapped anything before. But why can't we be looking at what others have done that does better to keep intact communities of interest does better, to meet the VRA requirements does better for partisanship fairness? Those examples sit in the portal to be used today.
DO: And Sergio, I think one other aspect of this is to listen to the community itself. Why shouldn't they have a say in whether they want to be together or spread across districts? They understand the political process, they understand that it can be a minority in two districts or a majority in one district, and their voice should be taken into account, in the sense of the maps that they're submitting, to represent their own selves in the American process.
SM: And I think for everyone listening, everyone keeps hitting on this point, which is like they wanna hear from you and you have to show up and you have to flood the gates and you have to talk to these groups, or even submit your map online. That's super important in order for everyone to have fair maps, which is why we're here. Sue, I have this question for you here before we close, and it has to do with this idea of flooding the gates and receiving submissions. The commission have been asking people to show up, to submit their maps, to talk to the commission, and I wonder, today, for example, there were two hours of public comments in today's meeting, I wonder how helpful it is to have so many comments, and I'm wondering, too, if there's something that they probably can do to make it easier for commissioners to draw fair maps. Is it maybe submitting group proposals, or is it maybe having other type of interaction with the commission? What would make it easier for a commissioners to draw fair maps and better maps?
SH: Well, it's a tough job. There's no doubt about it. [chuckle] The rank criteria make it a very challenging job. Again, these are ordinary citizens that have been given this task through a lottery process of selection, so, very interesting process they're involved in, but they do want to hear from people. They do believe that every comment counts, whether they receive one or whether they receive 100 similar comments. So they really encourage people to give their comment. They will certainly listen and take that into consideration as they draw. So, again, it's just really, really important for people to show up, to speak up, they can call into meetings, they can show up at public hearings or meetings. They can get on the public comment portal and give their comments. So we really, really encourage people to be involved. This is about engaging the residents of Michigan in this historic process, and we wanna hear from you.
SM: I think it's important to remind people again that in two weeks, the commission is expected to hit the road for their second round of public hearings. It would start on October 11th in Flint, and then they'll go out to Gaylord, and they'll continue traveling across the state, but you don't have to wait until those public hearings to happen for you to submit your comment. Again, you can do it online and through the other methods. You can even use snail mail to submit your plan. So, make sure you do it.
SM: We have run out of time, but I wanna thank all the panelists, Bob, Hayg, Sue, and Moon for this rich conversation. And I also wanna thank our sponsors and our co-sponsors and to the audience this evening, you all made this happen today. And just a heads-up, with support from the Joyce Foundation, MSU's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and Clos Up will evaluate the Michigan Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission maps and the process with an interim report soon and a final report coming later, and that would be on their website and you can see the resources link in the chat to see those websites. And again, check them out, the website, if you're not looking at the chat, the website is closup.umich.edu, and that's spelled C L O S U P.umich.edu, and you can also see the video from tonight. We hope you'll visit resources and take part in the upcoming Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission hearings across the state.
SM: Again, we thank you for your questions, your comments, and your participation today, and we hope to see you in the next panel, which I'm told is expected to take place later this fall. Good night, everyone.