Michigan's top election official is seeking public input on proposed application language and eligibility guidelines for people wanting to sit on a new commission that will draw congressional and legislative lines in 2020 and 2021.

In November 2018, voters amended the state constitution to create a citizen-led commission responsible for drawing district lines for the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congressional seats. Under the amendment, the Secretary of State is charged with administering the process for application and selection of the commissioners, as well as providing administrative support to the commission once formed. The independent commission will be composed of 13 Michigan registered voters: four who self-identify as Democrats, four who self-identify as Republicans and five who self-identify as unaffiliated with those political parties. To launch the citizen-led process, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is inviting Michigan citizens to offer input and feedback on the proposed application language and eligibility guidelines – calling it the first step in a historic effort to map Michigan’s future. She says the success of the new redistricting process will depend upon public engagement – whether average citizens know about the commission and are encouraged to apply and, once formed, whether citizens can meaningfully engage in creating and submitting maps to be considered. The voter-approved ballot initiative that created the independent commission spells out much of the process by which 13 members will be selected at random, and the eligibility rules but Benson clarified that people who have been precinct delegates for political parties since August 2014 are ineligible.

Secretary of State Communications Director Shawn Starkey tells WHMI they hope a lot of people will participate, noting the public comment period is not required by the Constitution. However given the first-ever nature of the commission, he says Secretary Benson wanted to encourage full citizen participation so they’re asking for comment on application language and the eligibility guidelines. He says they’ve basically provided the text for the application language and eligibility guidelines interpreting what’s called for in the Constitution so they’re looking for any feedback that citizens want to provide. Starkey says transparency is extremely important to Secretary Benson and for this process and they wanted to make sure it’s something that is completely open, transparent and available to the public.

The public comment period runs through Friday, August 9th. Citizens can view the proposed language and guidelines online at RedistrictingMichigan.org and a link is provided. Comments can be submitted by email at Redistricting@Michigan.gov. The application process will launch this fall with an application deadline of June 1, 2020. Commissioners will be selected in a multi-step random selection process by September 1st, 2020. The commission will host town halls, gather public input and select the final maps by November 2021. The maps will take effect for the 2022 elections. (JM)