To ensure fair representation, it is incumbent upon the public to advise the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission of the communities of interest throughout the state.
Every 10 years, following the national census, every state is required to redraw the electoral districts by which citizens elect their representatives to the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
For decades, political parties have sought to abuse the redistricting process by drawing districts that slice and tear through contiguous communities or jam dissimilar cities together to give their party an unfair advantage — a process known as gerrymandering.
During the 2018 election, Michigan voters overwhelmingly voted to eradicate unfair partisan gerrymandering by passing Proposition 2 (“Voters Not Politicians”), which created the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). The MICRC is comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and five Independents, who are in charge of soliciting input from the public to draw Michigan’s congressional, state house and state senate districts in effect for the next decade.
The foremost among a number of metrics the MICRC will use to determine the boundaries of Michigan’s new congressional and state legislative districts is what is known as “communities of interest.” A community of interest may be neighboring municipalities that form an economic corridor, or it may be an ethnic, cultural, religious or issue-oriented community spanning several municipalities.
To ensure fair representation, it is incumbent upon the public to advise the MICRC of the communities of interest throughout the state. To that end, the MICRC is holding public hearings, including ones at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, at Suburban Showplace in Novi and at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 10, at the Marriott in Pontiac.
Engaging with the 2022 redistricting process is critical to Metro Detroit’s Jewish community. Not only does the Jewish community constitute a community of interest under redistricting guidelines, but, since 2010, West Bloomfield Township, the municipality with the greatest number of Jews in the state, has been gerrymandered to ensure that a municipality almost 25% Jewish that consistently votes for Democratic presidential nominees by almost 2:1 margins has been represented almost continuously by Republicans in the Michigan legislature.
West Bloomfield also bears the distinction as one of the only municipalities in the entire state that has been divided between two districts on both the state legislative and congressional maps. It has also been separated from neighboring communities like Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake and Keego Harbor — which all share similar interests.
Divisions like those in West Bloomfield disempower communities and inhibit collective political action, as even the most attuned voters struggle to remember which district they live in and who represents them.
To rectify gerrymanders like those in West Bloomfield, as well as ensure the MICRC considers Jews as a community of interest in other municipalities we live in, such as Huntington Woods, Farmington Hills, Bloomfield, Southfield, Birmingham and Franklin, Jewish Detroiters must be present and engaged with the Redistricting Commission’s hearings.
At a time of rising anti-Jewish hatred (Oakland County alone has witnessed 35 anti-Jewish incidents over the past four years out of 150 statewide, according to the Anti-Defamation League) and threats to voting rights, environmental conservation and other critical issues, the Jewish community must actively engage with the 2022 redistricting process and advocate for our community before the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
Noah Arbit is the founder and chairman of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. A native of West Bloomfield Township, he also serves as director of communications for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.