LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan House Democrats and Republicans were set to release competing maps Friday showing how they think the state's new legislative districts should look, the next step in a once-a-decade process that also includes redrawing the congressional boundaries.
Besides proposing their state House map, House Republicans are releasing their congressional suggestions, too.
Whatever map is adopted will determine the lines of the 110 Michigan House seats and 14 congressional seats for the next 10 years. The state is losing one congressional district because its population declined in the latest census count.
Michigan Senate district maps will be out next.
Lawmakers have until Nov. 1 to pass redistricting laws redrawing the lines, but Republicans say they want to pass the bills by July 1 before leaving on a summer break.
Democrats, who are in the minority in the House and Senate, know they don't have the votes to alter the GOP plans. But several House Democrats called Thursday for Republicans to give voters the summer to comment on the maps before making them law.
Under the GOP schedule, the House and Senate will take up redistricting bills next week in committee, giving the public just four or five days before the hearings to study the proposed maps.
"Residents have not had a voice in the process," state Rep. Woodrow Stanley, a Flint Democrat and member of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, said at a news conference Thursday. "They're concerned about gerrymandering. ... Four days, 10 years — it just doesn't add up."
Some nonpartisan groups also are concerned the public isn't being given enough time to study the maps.
"We really don't see the purpose of rushing this process," said Christina Kuo, executive director of Common Cause Michigan. "For once, this is something they should take their time doing, since it's going to affect how the state's going to be run the next 10 years. That's huge."
The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative, which includes Common Cause, is calling for lawmakers to post their proposed maps and the detailed data they used to draw them on a website for public view. It also wants legislators to hold at least four public hearings, including three outside Lansing, where citizens can go to learn about the proposals.
House Republicans said in a release Thursday that they've explored the redistricting process through past committee hearings and don't see a need for a months-long delay in approving the new maps.
They said that the maps they've drawn abide by requirements in the Michigan Constitution, federal Voting Rights Act and the so-called Apol standards. Among them are to create roughly equal populations, feature contiguous and compact boundaries, respect municipal and county boundaries to the extent possible and assure representation for minority groups.
Although none of the maps for the state's 14 congressional seats, 38 Senate seats or 110 House seats yet have been made public, a draft copy of the Republicans' congressional map was obtained a few weeks ago by The Detroit News. It showed nine districts drawn to favor Republicans and five drawn to favor Democrats, and puts Democratic Reps. Sander Levin of Royal Oak and Gary Peters of Oakland County's Bloomfield Township into the same district, potentially forcing a runoff.
Similar actions have occurred in other years when Michigan lost a congressional seat. In 2002, Democratic Reps. John Dingell and Lynn Rivers were put into the same district, while in 1992, Democratic Reps. Levin and John Hertel suffered the same fate, according to redistricting expert Ed Sarpolus.
The GOP maps have been devised not just by lawmakers but by outside consultants such as Robert LaBrant, general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, further upsetting Democrats. With Republicans in control of the governor's office, Supreme Court, House and Senate, Democrats and their allies fear the new districts will be designed to give the GOP the upper hand for years.
"As it stands, these gerrymandered districts are designed to give a distinct advantage to one political party rather than to fairly represent the voters," Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said in a release. "This is simply an unabashed power grab that will prevent Michigan voters from having a meaningful choice in the political process."
Under the new maps, millions of Michigan residents could suddenly find themselves switched to another congressional, House or Senate seat that scrambles the cities, townships and counties now in it.
Traverse City voters, for instance, could find themselves represented in Congress by someone whose district takes in the Upper Peninsula rather than the central portion of the Lower Peninsula, as they are now. Pontiac voters could find themselves electing a congressional member whose district stretches down to Detroit rather than remaining within Oakland County.
Michigan is one of 37 states where the legislature has the initial authority to draw the plans for state House and Senate districts, and one of 43 states that has the initial authority to draw congressional districts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-one states use an independent or bipartisan commission to draw the lines.
Kuo would like to see Michigan move to a commission. Democratic Rep. Jim Townsend of Royal Oak has introduced a bill to do that, but it hasn't been taken up.
"Having people that are multiple steps removed from benefiting from what a map looks like is much better," Kuo said. "A lot of states are moving toward that model."