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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

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.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Mich. Comp. L. §§ 3.61-643.71-754.261-2654.2005

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Mich. Comp. L. §§ 3.61-643.71-754.261-2654.2005

Key Info for 2020 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Data

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The Latest Updates

Nov 2, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted to advance three congressional maps and one state Senate map, which will now be open to public comment prior to final approval.
Oct 22, 2021
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights informed the Michigan Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission that its draft redistricting plans violate federal civil rights law.
Oct 9, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted 5-4 to approve a state Senate draft map.
Oct 5, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted to cancel several upcoming public hearings in light of its looming deadline to submit proposed maps. The second round of public hearings will run from October 18 through October 26.
Sep 23, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has released proposed draft congressional and state legislative redistricting maps.
Aug 25, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission approved a map drawing schedule.
May 5, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission launched a public comment portal to facilitate public input on the redistricting process.
Apr 3, 2021
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission published the schedule for statewide public hearings that will begin on May 11, 2021.
Aug 17, 2020
The new commissioners for Michigan's 13-person independent commission were appointed.  Information about the selection process is here.

Institution

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]

Timing

Final congressional and state legislative plans are due by Nov. 1, 2021.  [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(7)] However, in light of delays in the release of essential census data, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is operating on a different timeline during the 2020 cycle. The current plans adopted by the Commission set Nov. 5, 2021 as the first date on which the Commission will vote on proposed maps, and Dec. 30, 2021 as the first date on which the Commission will vote to adopt final maps.

Candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Apr. 19, 2022. [Mich. Comp. L. §§ 168.133168.163(1), 168.551]

The Michigan constitution seems to prohibit redrawing district lines mid-decade, before the next Census.  [Mich. Const. art. IV, § 6(18)-(19)]

Public input

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)]

Criteria

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)]

2010 cycle

In May 2011, the Michigan Center for Election Law and Redistricting and the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative ran a public competition to draw Michigan district lines.

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)]

 

2000 cycle

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.

The congressional plan was challenged in state and federal court, and upheld. [LeRoux v. Secretary of State, 640 N.W.2d 849 (Mich. 2002); O’Lear v. Miller, 222 F. Supp. 2d 850 (E.D. Mich. 2002)]

Redistricting Cases in Michigan

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Michigan | State Supreme | Process
Davis v. Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
State court action seeking mandamus to compel commission to release maps
Last Updated Sep 16, 2021
Case Number

No. 163486 (Mich. Sup. Ct.)

Cycle 2020
Michigan | State Supreme | Process
In Re Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
State court action asking court to extend constitutional deadline to publish proposed plans in light of census delay
Last Updated Jul 9, 2021
Case Number

No. 162891 (Mich.)

Cycle 2020
Michigan | Federal Trial | Federal Appellate | Process
Daunt v. Benson
Federal court challenge to exclusions from independent commission based on political activity
Last Updated May 27, 2021
Case Number

Nos. 1:19-cv-00614, 1:19-cv-00669 (W.D. Mich.), Nos. 19-2377, 19-2420, 20-1734 (6th Cir.)

Cycle 2020