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Michigan selects commissioners to redraw voting lines

August 17, 2020 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The 13 citizens who will be tasked with redrawing Michigan’s congressional and legislative district boundaries for the next decade were unveiled Monday, with most coming from the east of the state.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is comprised of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents who were selected at random from a pool of more than 9,000 applicants. The commission, which was created by a voter-backed ballot measure in 2018, is meant to do away with partisan gerrymandering by tasking the independent panel, instead of the Legislature, with redrawing the state’s electoral boundaries after the 2020 Census is complete.

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The commission is made up of people from most parts of the state, but most come from eastern Michigan and none live in the Upper Peninsula. Three of the 13 are not white, which is roughly in line with the percentage of non-white residents in the state.

The Democrats named to the commission were Dustin Witjes, 31, of Ypsilanti; M. Rothhorn, 48, of Lansing; and Juanita Curry, 72, and Brittni Kellom, 33, of Detroit.

The Republicans were Erin Wagner, 54, of Charlotte; Cynthia Orton, 54, of Battle Creek; Douglas Clark, 73, of Rochester Hills; and Rhonda Lange, 47, of Reed City.

The Independents named to the panel were Janice Vallette, 68, of Highland Twp; James Decker, 59, of Fowlerville; Richard Weiss, 73, of Saginaw; Steven Lett, 73, of Interlochen; and Anthony Eid, 27, of Orchard Lake.

The commission will begin meeting in the fall and use census data to redraw lines by Nov. 1, 2021.

The Secratary of State’s Office randomly narrowed the original pool of applicants down to 200 semifinalists, from which the eventual commissioners were drawn at random by the accounting firm Rehmann LLC in accordance with their party affiliation or lack thereof.

The commission was formed after voters passed a state constitutional amendment in 2018 to allow an independent group of Michigan residents, instead of partisan legislators, to redraw the state’s electoral boundaries. Voters in Ohio, Colorado, Utah and Missouri also approved ballot measures in 2018 meant to limit gerrymandering, and several other states have pushed for such measures since then.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.