Written by Ashanti Kafi
Edited by Kandia Milton
There is a Lot of Talk About Redistricting
Greetings Citizens of Detroit.
I often choose to write about things that pique my curiosity. The subjects I chose are those that I have questions about and am seeking answers. I want to know the who, the what, the where, the how and most importantly - the why. One such subject on my mind is the city of Detroit’s redistricting process that is currently underway.
The City of Detroit is currently going through its charter mandated redistricting process, and given all the coverage of the successful legal challenge to the independent commission’s redistricting of state districts - which led to the dilution of Black representation throughout the state - few people are aware that this important process is happening. Well The Black Slate has you covered.
As a resident of District 5, I attended an in person meeting on a subject of which you may already be aware. So I started to dig into Why this was happening. Why is it happening Now? And what does this change mean?
The City of Detroit is planning to change the City’s district map through a process called redistricting. Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral boundaries within the city. Currently the City of Detroit has 7 Districts. All Districts are subject to change once a new map is approved and adopted by City Council.
Our 2012 City Charter in section 3-108 says “City Council shall establish district wards that are as nearly of equal population as practicable, contiguous, compact and in accordance with any other criteria permitted by law. District wards shall be apportioned in subsequent years as required by, and in accordance with, the Home Rule City Act, MCL 117.27a, and other applicable law.”
Home Rule City Act, MCL 117.27a, is from the State of Michigan Legislature, which says
“(b) "Ward" means a district comprising less than all of the area of a city which constitutes the political unit from which 1 or more members of the local legislative body is nominated, elected or nominated and elected.
(2) The population of each city subject to the provisions of this section shall, in the first instance, be determined from the most recent official United States decennial census.
(4) In each such city subject to the provisions of this section the local legislative body, not later than December 1, 1967, shall apportion the wards of the city in accord with this section. In subsequent years, the local legislative body, prior to the next general municipal election occurring not earlier than 4 months following the date of the official release of the census figures of each United States decennial census, shall apportion the wards of the city in accord with this section.”
There is obviously more to this piece of legislation that you should read, but for this article, let's break down what these pieces mean in layman's terms.
The City of Detroit must abide by the State law to redraw the City’s district following every 10 year (decennial) census. And they must adopt these new districts prior to the City's next election. 2024 is an election year for the City of Detroit.
The Interesting Facts
The City’s Charter in section 3-108 says that new districts don’t become effective until after the General Election.
The 2020 US Census showed a population decline of 10.5% since the last US Census of 2010. The Home Rule City Act says that the population numbers from the Census must be used to determine the population of each district ward.
According to the City Planning Commission and the Law Department of Detroit, District 4 lost the largest population of 20.2% while District 1 lost the least at 3.8%. The new population total of 639,800 was taken and divided by 7, the number of districts in the city. This determines that each district must have a population of approximately 91,400 residents.
The Districts must be drawn in a way that is continuous and compact. Meaning they must touch and that the shape of the district must be drawn in a way to get the most people in under the constraints of borders such as rivers, major roadway etc.
How these new maps are drawn is not just an exercise of meeting the demand of the numbers. There are also political and social ramifications that will affect the citizens.
Because the maps won’t take effect until after the election, residents may end up with a City Council member that they did not vote for, and does not represent the voice of their communities. Neighborhoods may be divided, raising questions of equity and representation. It may mean dividing Block Clubs and restructuring of social programs. The loss of population means we lose voting power and results in a decline in the number of precincts and polling places in which we cast our votes. It possibly means we lose Federal and State funding by which our City Council decides how to spend. A member of the current City Council is poised to run for Mayor in the next election, and could possibly influence the process in a manner favorable to their interest. As responsible citizens, these are all things we must consider.
I have attempted to provide some insight into how this works and why it's happening. More importantly we as citizens must stay aware of what’s going on. We have a voice in this matter. The Black Slate encourages you to get educated and use your voice.
To find out more information, please visit the following sites.
Letter to City Council on redistricting
City Planning Commission site with interactive maps
Home Rule City Act