In a matter of months, Michigan could look very different from a political standpoint. That's because for the first time, instead of lawmakers, a citizen's commission will re-draw our state legislative and congressional districts.
Due to the U.S. Census numbers, we already know Michigan is going to lose one U.S. House seat, taking us from 14 to 13 representatives.
With the help of public input, the commission will have to create 13 districts of about 750,000 people each.
Experts are eyeing southeast Michigan for a couple of reasons – population for one. Political insiders are looking at Oakland County as one area that could be shaken up. Another place they're watching, two congressional districts in Detroit.
Michigan's lines are shaped weirdly due to gerrymandering, but that could change with the new commission.
“I think people in the Detroit area should expect a new map that doesn’t look anything like the old map," John Eguia, an economics professor at Michigan State University, said.
Detroit's two congressional districts are currently represented by Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib in the 13th and Brenda Lawrence in the 14th district.
“We have to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Michigan has chosen in the past to do so by creating these majority-minority districts," Oakland University political science professor Dave Dulio said. "There are other ways the commission could go, but if they follow suit we will have to have these two minority-majority districts.”
The new redistricting commission is supposed to consider communities of interest, meaning groups of people that share cultural, historic, or economic interests, without giving either party a leg up.
“It’s up to the residents of metro Detroit to tell us how do they see their community," Eguia said. “My expectation is that it will be shy of a district but not by very much. So if the City of Detroit were to be kept together. It’s going to need another 50,000 or 100,000.”
Could a surrounding suburb join Detroit? That's a possibility, but citizens and lawmakers are still waiting on final U.S. Census data.
“Because we’re going from 14 districts to 13. It’s kind of like this game of musical chairs; which incumbent is going to be left standing when the music stops?" Dulio asked. “Now somebody has got to probably run in an unfamiliar place.”
One place that could happen is in Oakland County. It's home to several Democratic House incumbents.
“In Oakland County when you’ve got a number of representatives, representatives Slotkin, Stevens, Levin, it's certainly possible that two of the three get put into the same district and then would have to run against each other in a Democratic primary," Dulio said.
He expects southeast Michigan is where Michigan will lose that congressional district. The U.P. and Northern Michigan are likely going to be impacted the least.
“Think of it like creating a jigsaw puzzle," Eugia added. "The corners are going to be whatever they are, right? They’re not going to change the corners much. The things in the middle have a lot more room to change.".
Dulio said he expects communities of interest to play a larger role in shaping state legislative districts, which are smaller. The commission is depending on people to weigh-in on how they want to be represented.