As of 2018, Michigan uses an independent commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The commission structure has been challenged in federal court, thus far unsuccessfully. The 13 commissioners were selected on Aug. 17, 2020.
This will be the first cycle for Michigan to use an independent commission. In 2010, the legislature was in charge: it passed a congressional plan (HB 4780) and a state legislative plan (SB 498) on June 29, 2011, which were both signed by the Governor on Aug. 9, 2011.
Michigan’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by a 13-member independent commission, created by ballot initiative in 2018.
Commissioners must be registered in Michigan; neither they nor their immediate family members may have been, within six years of appointment, a candidate or elected official in partisan office, a political party officer, a paid consultant or employee of an elected official, candidate, campaign, or PAC, an employee of the legislature, a lobbyist, or state non-civil-service employees. Commissioners are also not eligible to hold partisan elected state or local office in Michigan for five years after serving. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(1)]
The Secretary of State solicits applications for the commission, and also mails applications to at least 10,000 randomly selected voters. The Secretary of State randomly selects 30 Democrats, 30 Republicans, and 40 of neither from solicited applications, and 30 Democrats, 30 Republicans, and 40 of neither from randomly sent applications. The legislative leaders may then each strike five applicants of those 200. Finally, the Secretary of State randomly selects 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 5 of neither from the pool of 180, to serve as commissioners. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(2)] The 13 commissioners for the 2020 cycle are listed here. More information about the selection process is available here.
Final maps must be passed with a nine-person quorum, and by an affirmative vote of 7 commissioners, including 2 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 2 neither. If the commission does not agree on a final plan, a plan is chosen from among plans submitted by individual commissioners and preferred by 2 commissioners with a party affiliaton different from the submitting commissioner. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(10)-(14)]
The Michigan Supreme Court has jurisdiction to evaluate challenges to any map. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(19)] By statute, that jurisdiction is exclusive in state court, for both congressional and state legislative lines. The legislature may modify these statutes at any time. [Mich. Comp. L. §§ 3.71, 4.262]
Final congressional and state legislative plans are due by Nov. 1, 2021. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(7)]
The Michigan constitution seems to prohibit redrawing district lines mid-decade, before the next Census. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(18)-(19)]
The commission is subject to open meetings laws. Before drafting any plan, the commission must hold at least ten public hearings throughout the state, accepting public comments. Then, after developing at least one proposed plan for each of congressional, state Senate, and state House districts, the commission must publish the proposed plan(s) and hold at least five public hearings throughout the state on those proposals. There must be 45 days for public comment on any proposed plan before it is put to a vote. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(8)-(11), (14)(b)]
Within 30 days after adopting a plan, the commission must publish both the plan and reference materials and data used to produce it; the commission must also issue a report explaining the basis for the map. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(15)-(16)]
Like all states, Michigan must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(13)]
State law further requires that congressional and state legislative districts be contiguous and that they “reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest.” Districts may not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party based on “accepted measures of partisan fairness” (which have not yet been interpreted in Michigan by the courts); they also may not favor or disfavor an incumbent or candidate. Finally, as lower priorities, districts should “reflect consideration of” county, city, and township boundaries; and they should be reasonably compact. [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(13)]
The Michigan legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 4780) and a state legislative plan (SB 498) on June 29, 2011, which were both signed by the Governor on Aug. 9, 2011. The state sought preclearance in federal court, which was granted on Feb. 28, 2012.
The congressional, state Senate, and state House plan were challenged in federal court, and upheld. [League of Women Voters of Mich. v. Benson, 373 F. Supp. 3d 867 (E.D. Mich. 2019), rev’d sub nom. Chatfield v. League of Women Voters of Mich., 140 S. Ct. 429 (2019); NAACP v. Snyder, 879 F. Supp. 2d 662 (E.D. Mich. 2012)]
The Michigan legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 546) that was signed on Sept. 19, 2001; it also passed a state legislative plan (HB 4965) plan that was signed on Sept. 20, 2001. Both were precleared on Feb. 11, 2002.