Frequently Asked Questions

Map Michigan's Future

We hope the following FAQ will help answer your questions about the Independent Citizens Redistricting Process. We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. Have a question that isn't answered here? Please email Redistricting@Michigan.gov and our team will respond directly. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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The Basics -- Application -- Eligibility -- Selection -- Role and Responsibilities of Commissioners - The Commission


THE BASICS


Q: What is the citizens redistricting commission?

In November 2018, Michigan voters amended the Constitution with Proposal 18-2 or the "Voters Not Politicians" ballot proposal, a constitutional amendment to “establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years.” Now, the Michigan constitution empowers an independent commission of citizens to draw district lines for the Michigan Legislature and Michigan’s members of Congress for the 2022 election and beyond.

Q: Who will serve on the citizens redistricting commission?

The constitutional amendment establishes a commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected through an application process. Of the 13 commissioners, four will affiliate with the Democratic Party, four will affiliate with the Republican Party, and five will not affiliate with either major political party.

Q: Can I apply to be a member of the citizens redistricting commission?

The application period to serve as commissioner has closed for the 2020-2021 redistricting cycle. You are welcome to view an archive of our application materials. You can stay updated on the process by signing up to receive updates or following us on social media @RedistrictingMI on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Q: When will the citizens redistricting commission begin meeting?

The commission will begin meeting in the fall of 2020. Commissioners will be selected in August 2020 and must convene no later than October 15, 2020. 

Q: When will the district lines proposed by the citizens redistricting commission take effect?

The commission will use data from the 2020 federal decennial census and citizen input to determine district lines no later than November 1, 2021 which will take effect prior to the 2022 elections.

Q: What is the citizens redistricting commission timeline?

You can read or print a detailed timeline of the new redistricting process here. 

Q: Where can I read this section of the Michigan constitution?

You can read this section of the Michigan constitution here

Q: How can citizens trust this process will be administered fairly and without favor to either party?

As a lifelong advocate for independent citizen redistricting, Secretary Benson is committed to ensuring this process is implemented fairly and with transparency so voters can have faith that the application and selection process will not unfairly benefit one party or the other. To that end, the Department of State has hired the Rehmann LLC, a third-party, independent accounting firm to administer the random selections throughout the process. You can also read more from the voluntary period of public comment on the application text, eligibility guidelines, and random selection process. 

 

 


APPLICATION


Q: What is the penalty for lying on the application, especially in the eligibility or affiliation section? 

Lying on the application is a criminal offense, punishable under penalty of perjury. 

In addition, the applications of the 200 semi-finalists were made public in June 2020. You can read more about this and review the applications on our selection page. The public, the press, and the Legislature all have access to read and review applications. Legislative leaders are able to evaluate and remove up to 20 applicants from the semi-finalist pool for any reason. 

Q: Why is there a notary requirement on the application? 

The application must be notarized because the constitution states applicants must “attest under oath” to their qualifications and stated party affiliation [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 2(A)(iii)]. The phrase “attest under oath” has long been understood and interpreted to mean that the oath must be administered by a notary (or clerk or judge). 

During the application phase of this process, Secretary of State made every effort to connect citizens with notary services, including offering notary services for free in all 131 branch offices, maintaining a list of over 1500 notaries in all 83 counties willing to perform the notary service for free, and facilitating remote notary services during the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order.

Q: What is the role of demographics in the random selection process? 

The constitution outlines a specific process for the random selection of the final 13 commissioners. The Secretary of State is required to randomly select 200 semi-finalist applicants and “use accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools, as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state” [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 (2)(d)(ii)]. 

Consequently, the demographic questions on the application are required fields and necessary for fulfilling the constitutional requirements of the selection process. Using statewide data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, Rehmann LLC, independent accounting firm hired by the Secretary of State performed the random, statistically-weighted selection will utilizing weighing methods so that the pool of 200 semi-finalists was representative of the state. Read more about the selection process.

Q: Was anyone disqualified because of their identity? 

No. Every applicant who was eligible and submitted a complete application had the chance of being randomly selected as one of the 200 semi-finalists. The demographic weighting simply corrected for any biases in the applicant pool of randomly-selected semifinaliste is representative of the state. 

Q: How did the Department of State work to ensure the process is truly open to Michiganders of every background?

The Department of State took several steps to ensure transparency of the applicant pool and encourage applicants from a wide range of backgrounds to apply. These steps include:

  1. Periodically publishing data about the applicant pool on our website. This included information about the number of applicants and the demographic and geographic background of those applicants. 

  2. Providing applicants with information and resources on where and how to get their application notarized – as required by the Michigan Constitution - free of charge.

  3. Working with partner organizations to spread the word about the opportunity  to apply. 

  4. Hosting and attending community meetings, workshops, and town halls in communities across the state.

Ultimately, over 9300 Michiganders from all 83 counties and diverse  backgrounds applied to be part of this historic effort. It is critical that people participate in the map drawing process after the commission is formed. This includes, for example, by, for example, attending a commission public hearing or submitting a map to the commission for consideration. 

You can sign up to receive updates on the redistricting process here or follow us on social media @RedistrictingMI on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Q: What determines “affiliation”?

The Michigan Constitution does not define the term “affiliation.”

The common meaning of the word “affiliation,” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is: “the state or relation of being closely associated with a particular person, group, party, company, etc.”

The application includes an optional space for applicants to provide more information in their own words about their political affiliation if they so choose. Applicants attested to their political party affilation under oath.

 


ELIGIBILITY


Q: How did applicants determine whether they were eligible to serve on the commission?

The Michigan Constitution provides specific requirements for who is eligible to serve on the Commission. See Michigan Constitution, Article IV, Sec. 6 (1)b-d. The Department of State provided guidance on these eligibility criteria, which can be found here.  


SELECTION


Q: How does the random selection process work? What role does the Legislature play?

The constitution outlines a specific process for the random selection of the final 13 commissioners. The Secretary of State must randomly select commissioners from the pool of eligible applicants. There are a three primary steps in that process. 

Step 1: Following the closure of the application period on June 1, 2020, the Secretary of State’s Office must randomly select 200 semi-finalist applicants whose applications will be sent to the Michigan Legislature for review. Of the 200 randomly selected applicants, 60 people must self-identify as affiliating with the Republican Party, 60 people must self-identify as affiliating with the Democratic Party and 80 must self-identify as unaffiliated with either of those political parties. The Secretary of State’s Office must also use statistical weighting methods to ensure the pool of 200 semi-finalists mirrors the geographic and demographic makeup of the state, as specified by the state constitution. 

Step 2: In July 2020 the minority and majority leaders in the Michigan Senate and the Speaker of the House and minority leader in the Michigan House will have the opportunity to remove up to 20 applicants from the semi-finalist pool for any reason.

Step 3: In August 2020, from the remaining pool received from the Legislature, the Secretary of State’s Office must randomly select four people who self-identify as affiliating with the Republican Party, four people who self-identify as affiliating with the Democratic Party and five people who self-identify as unaffiliated with either of those political parties to serve on commission.

Q: Is the selection process truly random?

Yes. The Secretary of State plays a purely ministerial role in the random selection process. Applicants drawn in various stages of the selection process will be selected at random, and the random-ness of that selection will be verified by external, independent firms as well as public observers. 

You can view the random selection of 200 semifinalists, which was livestreamed, and learn more about the random selection process.

Q: What did the Department of state use to define the demographic and geographic makeup of the state for the purposes of the random selection?

We utilized data from the 2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate, which is available to the general public via the American Community Survey Data Profiles online search tool. Michigan demographic information can be viewed here, and detailed tables with data for race and ethnicity, age and sex, and geographic distribution are also available.

The variables were defined as follows:

Demographic Variables
Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?

Yes – 5.0%
No – 95.0%

Race

White – 78.52%
Black or African American – 13.81%
American Indian or Alaska Native – 0.53%
Asian – 3.06%
Other – 1.23%
Two or more races – 2.85%

Sex

Males – 49.2%
Females – 50.8%

Age

18-34 years old – 28.8%
35-54 years old – 32.4%
55+ years old – 38.8%

Geographic Variables

Southeast Michigan – 35.4% of the total state population

Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee, Monroe

Wayne County – 17.7% of the total state population

West Michigan – 23.8% of the total state population

Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, Isabella, Muskegon, Montcalm, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Branch

East Central Michigan – 13.6% of the total state population

Midland, Bay, Huron, Gratiot, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Clinton, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair

Northern Michigan – 6.4% of the total state population

Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Presque Isle, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Kalkaska, Crawford, Oscoda, Alcona, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Mason, Lake, Osceola, Arenac, Clare, Gladwin

Upper Peninsula – 3.1% of the total state population

Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Iron, Marquette, Dickinson, Menominee, Alger, Delta, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, Chippewa

 

Q: How large a deviation from the target population proportions did the State accept in the pool of 200 semi-finalists? 

The Department’s independent contractor, Rehmann LLC, provided the Department with a recommendation based on practical field tests of the software application and preliminary test data. Accordingly, the statistical tolerances for the random selection of 200 semifinalists arewere set to the following:

Sex: 5.0% tolerance
Race: 3.0% tolerance
Hispanic: 2.0% tolerance
Age: 5.0% tolerance
Region: 5.0% tolerance

Additionally, at least one applicant from each demographic and geographic sub-category (including all racial groups and all geographic regions) must be included in the group of 200 semifinalists.

You can see the final geographic and demographic makeup of the 200 semifinalists.

Read more about how the process works.

 

Q: Are the relevant selection demographics based on the total population or the voting age population (18 and over)? If the latter is used, does it consider all voting age people or only citizens?

The Michigan Constitution requires that the Secretary of State’s office use “accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools, as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state.” Accordingly, the demographics for race and ethnicity, sex, and geographic area are based on the total population in Michigan. However, in order to avoid a weighting imbalance and propose nearly equal weights for eligible age categories, we did not factor people age 17 and under into the weighted categories for age.

Q: Are Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish origin responses considered a “race” variable? Are they calculated together with or separate from non-Hispanic racial categories?

On the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” is a separate question from “Race.” They are separate categories and our proposed method treats them as separate variables as well. In other words, the categories for race include both Hispanic and non-Hispanic individuals. For example, a person could be both Hispanic and black, or non-Hispanic and black, and they would both be identified as “black” for the racial category. Hispanic identity is captured in a separate question, which makes it a separate variable.

Q: How did the State plan to combine the requirement for the partisan breakdown on the Commission (30%/30%/40%) with the rule that the selection process should “use accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools, as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state”?

The Michigan Constitution requires that the entire pool of 200 “semifinalists” mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state. There is no requirement or expectation that each of the individual partisan groups (30%/30%/40%) mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state individually — only that the combined pool of 200 semifinalists collectively mirror the state. 

Accordingly, each demographic factor was separately weighted and considered, without any cross tabulation of political party affiliation. The formula randomly selected 60 applicants who affiliate with the Democratic Party, 60 applicants who affiliate with the Republican Party, and 80 applicants who do not affiliate with either party, until the group of 200 meets the demographic and geographic criteria to reflect the state as a whole. That group of 200 semifinalists was referred to the legislature. That will be the group of 200 semifinalists referred to the legislature.

Q: Did the State use raking to apply the demographic weights to the group of applicants prior to selecting semifinalists? If so, what is the exact function in the visual basic program?

Yes, raking was performed using basic Excel functions. “Raking” is a statistical method for weighting data, commonly used in polls or surveys (for example, see Pew Research Center’s explanation). Each application will received a weighting factor for each demographic variable. The formula is a simple ratio of the percentage in the population of applications to the target percentage from the U.S. Census.

For more explanation, view the archived livestream of random selection.

Q: What if the random selection fails to meet stated criteria?

In order to maintain the statistical randomness of the process, the software application operated in a fully automated manner. Once the applications were loaded and the tolerances set for mirroring “as closely as possible” the geographic and demographic makeup of the state, the computer drew a random selection of 200 applications – 60 who affiliate with the Democratic Party, 60 who affiliate with the Republican Party, and 80 who do not affiliate with either party. Once that sample was within the stated tolerances, the program output the results.  In other words, in this automated process individual applicants were never discarded. Every applicant had the opportunity to be selected until all 200 met the stated criteria.

Q: Will the State disclose the software and the underlying computer code used in the random selection process so it can be reviewed and validated by outside groups?
 

A copy of the Visual basic for Applications code in an Excel file can be made available upon request.

 

 


ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF COMMISSIONERS


Q: What are the specific tasks and responsibilities of a commissioner? Is there any prior experience, educational background or other qualification required?

Commissioners are expected to work with their twelve colleagues in good faith to engage citizen input to craft state legislative (state house and senate) and U.S. congressional districts for the entire state of Michigan. You do not need to have any prior knowledge or experience in drawing legislative districts.  Once the commission is selected there will be a training and education session to prepare commissioners for their work. Following that “orientation” period, the initial months of the commissioners’ work will involve collaborating with other commissioners to establish a committee structure and procedures, hiring staff and outside experts, and developing a plan for citizen engagement. The work will later involve efforts to gather the input and advice of citizens as maps are being drawn and considered. Similarly, it will involve reviewing map submissions from the public and taking them into account. Ultimately, commissioners will need to reach consensus about the maps and vote on the final districts for state house, state senate, and U.S. congressional districts in Michigan.

Q: What is the expected compensation of commissioners?

The Constitution requires that commissioners receive compensation equal to 25 percent of the Governor’s salary, which amounts to approximately $40,000.

Q: How will my retirement or Social Security be impacted if I am selected to serve?

The Constitution requires that commissioners receive compensation equal to 25 percent of the Governor’s salary, which amounts to approximately $40,000. In most cases, additional income should not affect the vested pension rights of a retiree, nor their ability to receive Social Security. However, as retiree pensions and Social Security benefits are very technical and unique to each individual, we strongly encourage contacting your retirement or pension provider and/or the Social Security Administration (SSA) to inquire whether the additional income would impact your benefits, should you be randomly selected to serve on the commission.

Q: What is the time commitment? 

The Commission will convene in the fall of 2020 and will be required to enact district maps no later than November 1, 2021.   Commissioners will set meeting dates and other commitments within those parameters upon its convening.

We estimate, based on the experiences of the citizens who sat on California’s citizen redistricting commission in 2011, that the work hours will be variable depending on the week.  Some weeks the time commitment may be limited to a handful of hours, while others may be much more intensive. The work will be varied throughout the year to include meetings, at least 15 constitutionally-required forums and town halls, and other discussions as the commission deems necessary to fulfil its service to the state.  

Q: How many hours are commissioners expected to work? And if there is not a clear estimate, how can I make a more educated guess as to how involved this position will be?

The Constitution requires the commission, once seated in fall 2020, to operate autonomously and provides commissioners with the authority to create their own schedule. Commissioners will set meeting dates and other commitments within those parameters upon convening. For this reason, we do not have an exact understanding of how much time will be required of the commissioners. 

We estimate, based on the experiences of the citizens who sat on California’s citizen redistricting commission in 2011, that the work hours will be variable depending on the week.  Some weeks, the time commitment may be limited to a handful of hours, while others may be much more intensive. The work will be varied throughout the year to include meetings, at least 15 constitutionally required forums and town halls, and other discussions the commission deems necessary to fulfill its service to the state.

Q: Will travel expenses be reimbursed?

This will be determined by the commission itself. Michigan’s constitution does not specifically address travel reimbursement, but the commission does have the authority to choose to reimburse commissioners’ travel and other related expenses as part of the expenses of the duties of Commissioner. 

Q: The application indicated there must be consensus among commissioners for major decisions. What does that mean?

The commission will select the district maps by “a majority vote of the commission, including at least two commissioners who affiliate with each major party, and at least two commissioners who do not affiliate with either major party.” [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 (14)(c)]. If two votes from each group of commissioners is not possible, there is a provision for a system similar to rank choice voting to determine which is the final set of maps. 

The constitution also notes that “a decision on the dismissal or retention of paid staff or consultants requires the vote of at least one commissioner affiliating with each of the major parties and one non-affiliating commissioner.” [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 (12)] 

Q: Will I still be able to collect retirement/Social Security Benefits if I am selected to serve as a commissioner?

In most cases, the additional income should not impact a commissioner’s ability to accept their retirement/pension or Social Security benefits, however, we advise that you contact your retirement/pension provider and/or the Social Security Administration to inquire whether additional income would impact your benefits, should you be randomly selected to serve on the Commission.

Q: Will I still be able to collect my annual salary wages if I am selected to serve as a commissioner?

The Constitutional amendment does not explicitly state whether employers are required to continue to pay their employee wages (such as an annual salary) during their participation in commission work or events.

Please consult your department’s legal counsel or human resources department to understand the potential impact of the additional income on your annual salary, should you be randomly selected to serve as a commissioner.

Q: How will serving on the commission impact my tax status?

Compensation paid to commissioners is income and thus, subject to state and federal income taxes. The tax implications of this compensation will be different for different people depending on how much other income they receive.

Please consult a tax specialist to understand the potential impact of the additional income on your tax status, should you be randomly selected to serve as a commissioner.

Q: If selected, can I maintain my employment and serve as a commissioner?

The Constitution prohibits a selected commissioner’s employer from terminating or retaliating against them because of their membership on the Commission. As such, selected commissioners are protected, should they choose to maintain employment while serving on the Commission.

We strongly encourage applicants to consider the flexibility and demands of their current commitments. We estimate, based on the experiences of the citizens who sat on California’s citizen redistricting commission in 2011, that the work hours will be variable depending on the week. Some weeks the time commitment may be limited to a handful of hours, while others may be much more intensive. The work will be varied throughout the year to include open meetings, at least 15 constitutionally-required forums and town halls, and other discussions as the commission deems necessary to fulfill its service to the state.

Q: If selected, will I be required to take a leave of absence from my job or can I use annual leave/paid time off?

This will vary depending on the commissioner’s employer/organization. Please consult your department’s legal counsel or human resources department to understand the use of leave time, should you be randomly selected to serve as a commissioner.

The Constitution prohibits a selected commissioner’s employer from terminating or retaliating against them because of their membership on the Commission. As such, selected commissioners are protected, should they choose to maintain employment while serving on the Commission.

 


THE COMMISSION


Q: Why do we need a redistricting commission? Can’t a computer program simply draw the districts? Can it just be based on county lines?

In November 2018, Michigan voters broadly approved the “Voters Not Politicians” ballot initiative Proposal 2, amending the Michigan Constitution to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Secretary Benson is committed to fully carrying out the will of the voters in the implementation of this commission. 

Q: What is the role of the Secretary of State once the Commission is formed?

The Secretary of State is the “secretary without a vote” of the Commission once formed. This involves keeping the public record and providing any technical assistance the Commission might need [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 (4), (17)].

Q: Will the Secretary of State have power over map drawing? 

No, the Secretary of State will merely serve as a “secretary without a vote.” [MI Constitution, Article IV, Section 6 (4)]. The Commission is independent and autonomous. Only commissioners can instruct, vote on, or otherwise make any substantive decisions about map drawing. 

Q: What if I don’t want to be a commissioner or I wasn't randomly selected – can I still be involved?

Yes. Citizen involvement throughout the redistricting process is critical to ensuring it is independent and fair. If you are ineligible to serve as a commissioner, or if you apply and are not selected, you will still be able to submit maps to the Commission for consideration and otherwise advocate for your interests before the Commission. The Department of State will be working throughout the redistricting process to provide and develop meaningful opportunities for citizen input and involvement. Please sign up to receive updates on how to stay involved or follow us on social media @RedistrictingMI on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.