Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Democracy Drumbeat: November 9, 2021

Redistricting: Commission moves proposed maps forward

On Friday, November 5th, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) voted on draft proposed maps, voting to move forward nine of their draft collaborative maps including three each for Congressional, State House, and State Senate districts respectively. The maps reflect adjustments based on public testimony across the five hearings held in October.

The collection of collaborative maps include: Chestnut, Birch v2, and Apple v2 for Congressional districts; Cherry v2, Linden, and Palm for State Senate districts; and Hickory, Pine v5, and Magnolia for State House districts.

Commissioners also submitted their own proposed individual maps, including State Senate maps from Commissioners Kellom, Lange & Szetela and Congressional maps from Lange and Szetela. Commissioner Szetela also submitted a State House Map.

Friday’s vote concluded the second round of deliberations on draft proposed maps for the Commission. According to the Commission’s timeline, the next phase, a 45-day public comment period, will begin by November 14th with the formal publication of the nine draft collaborative maps and six individual maps.

Public comments will help inform the Commission’s next vote to select one set of final maps. That voting process will likely take place on or shortly after December 30, 2021. The voting process will begin with votes that will be balanced for partisan fairness amongst commissioners. If no map passes with at least seven votes including two from each commission affiliation (Democrat, Republican and Unaffiliated) then the Commission will move to a ranked-choice vote. Should a ranked choice vote not produce an outright winner, the Secretary of State will make a randomized selection to move the process forward. You can review the detailed language of this process here, beginning on page 16.

Redistricting Actions You Can Take:

  1. Comment on the maps directly using the links above or provide a general public comment through the portal at www.michigan.gov/micrc.  

  1. If you would like additional details and information, please email our redistricting lead Mark Payne at [email protected].

Election Stories: Turnout, DVC take-ways, hotline, poll working take-aways

Last Tuesday’s election marked the culmination of our Direct Voter Contact (DVC) program. Over the course of 2021, our DVC team made over 670,000 call attempts, holding almost 50,000 conversations with voters on critical issues such as the timely delivery of their absentee ballot and accessing one of the many Detroit satellite voting locations before Election Day. In addition to this direct voter outreach, our teammates worked in additional critical capacities, including as poll workers and election protection hotline staff to ensure that the election was accessible and fair for all voters.

Over the course of our DVC program that we launched in June, our teammates have gleaned critical takeaways from their varied experiences as we continue our work to ensure elections are fair and accessible to all. Below we have included several of their stories:

Serving as a Poll Worker: One of our teammates worked at a precinct in Madison Heights as a poll worker, and noted that lower voter turnout meant that there was rarely a line to vote and that the precinct was overall accessible to all in regards to mobility and Voter Assist Terminal (VAT) in the precinct. Despite lower turnout, they did note hearing from some voters that they were frustrated that their polling place had been moved multiple times in the last few years, and that the current polling location was now outside the northern boundary of their own precinct. This type of complaint is one that our team will take back to its clerk engagement work to ensure more timely and clearer information sharing with voters.

Assisting Absentee Voters: Another one of our teammates noted their experience working with voters on some continuing confusion surrounding voting via absentee ballot. They described working with a voter who did not realize that despite being on the permanent absentee voter list, he still needed to request an absentee ballot from his clerk for each election in order to receive a ballot in the mail. After our teammate offered guidance on where to go online to submit his absentee ballot application to the clerk, the voter was able to find the resources needed to request his ballot in time to vote and was very grateful for the information and assistance.

Raising Awareness of All Michiganders’ Right to Vote Before Election Day In-Person Absentee: A member of our team working to raise awareness about early in-person voting in the weeks leading up to Election Day described an experience helping a voter make sure her voice was heard during this year’s election. The voter was appreciative of our teammate reaching out to her over the phone during our DVC campaign as she hadn’t yet received her requested absentee ballot this year. Instead, the voter was able to make a plan to go vote in-person absentee ahead of Election Day at her clerk’s office and was previously unaware of this convenient voting option available to all Michiganders beginning 40 days before Election Day.

Promoting Detroit’s Varied Satellite Voting Locations: Another point of emphasis throughout our DVC work this year was educating Detroit voters on the option to vote at satellite locations located in every city council district. One of our teammates spoke with a voter who was waiting to vote on Election Day because he found the city clerk’s office inconvenient as you often have to pay for parking there. The voter was excited to hear about other satellite locations across Detroit as another option, many of which are more conveniently located within neighborhoods at recreation centers like Clark Park and Northwest Activities Center. The voter appreciated the resources we were able to offer him and made a plan to vote before Election Day at a nearby satellite location instead.

Election Day: Finally, a member of our team voted in-person on Election Day and described their experience as “smooth and very enjoyable,” with their only recommendation for improvement being to have a recycling bin for all the literature people hand out in front of polling locations. We can all relate to being bombarded with candidate literature when trying to cast our ballots, so this might be a great suggestion!

As our work with our Direct Voter Contact teammates drew to a close for this election year, we hosted a Thank You Lunch with our team to debrief on our work and to show our appreciation for their dedication to voting rights, voter education, and our democracy. Nina Wimberely, our lead organizer for the DVC program, led the group through a joyous lunch as we celebrated all our hard work and reminisced about the experiences cultivated throughout this year’s DVC program. A big thanks to all of our DVC team for another successful program and another successful election year!

Anti-Voter Legislation Update: Veto other items?

The Democracy for All team continues to work with the WeVoteMI Coalition to stop the attacks on our freedom to vote. On Friday, October 29, much of this hard work paid off as we and some of our partners were invited to attend a small reception with Governor Whitmer as she vetoed Senate Bills 303 and 304 and House Bill 5007, which together sought to suppress voting options, critical funding for clerks, and Michiganders’ freedom to vote. Democracy For All Coordinator Brooke Harris joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a group of pro-democracy partners in Lansing for the official veto of the dangerous bills.

There is no time to rest, however, as much of the language in recently-vetoed Senate Bill 303 was changed to mirror the so-called “Secure MI Vote” petition. You can learn more about the nefarious details of that petition and what the proposed changes would mean for voting rights in Michigan in a blog post we published on Medium.

Voting Rights Actions You Can Take:

  1. Share our recent blog post with your friends and family and spread the message that the anti-voter petition and bills in our legislature seek to make it harder to vote, full stop.

  1. Decline to sign the so-called “Secure MI Vote” ballot initiative if you encounter signature gathering around your community.