Secretary of State
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.
Q: What is the citizens redistricting commission?
In November 2018, Michigan voters amended the Constitution with the "Voters not Politicians" ballot Proposal 2, 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.
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?
Commissioners must be Michigan registered voters.
However, the constitutional amendment outlines certain groups of people who are not eligible to serve on the commission, including partisan political officials, candidates, registered lobbyist agents, and their employees or close relatives. You can read more specifics in the constitutional amendment here or view eligibility guidelines here.
Q: When and where can I apply to be a member of the citizens redistricting commission?
You can apply anytime between now and June 1, 2020. Commissioners will be selected no later than September 1, 2020.
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 group, 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 and eligibility guidelines.
Q: What does “affiliation” with a political party mean? How will it be determined?
The Michigan Constitution does not provide a definition for the term “affiliation.”
Questions around what “affiliation” means is one reason why the draft application includes an optional space for applicants to provide more information in their own words about their political affiliation if they so choose.
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 will be made public in June 2020. The public, the press, and the Legislature will 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).
The Secretary of State shares the concerns of many Michiganders and community groups who worry about this requirement posing a barrier to otherwise interested applicants, which may in turn discourage them from applying. The Department of State is committed to making every effort to connect citizens with notary services.
You can go to Michigan.gov/FreeNotary to find the service for free near you. You can also visit your local Secretary of State branch office which will be providing the notary service for free for this application to serve as a commissioner.
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, the Rehmann Group, independent firm accounting firm hired by the Secretary of State to perform the random, statistically-weighted selection will utilize available methods to accurately weight applications so that the pool of 200 semi-finalists will be representative of the state.
Q: Will anyone be disqualified because of their identity?
No. Every applicant who is eligible and submits a complete application will have a chance of being randomly selected as one of the 200 semi-finalists. The demographic weighting simply corrects for any major bias in the applicant pool so that the pool of semi-finalists is representative of the state.
Q: How is the Department of State working to ensure the process is truly open to Michiganders of every background?
The Department of State plans to take several steps to ensure transparency of the applicant pool and encourage applicants from a wide range of backgrounds to apply. These steps include:
Periodically publishing data about the applicant pool on our website. This will include information about the number of applicants and the demographic and geographic background of those applicants.
Provide applicants with information on where and how to get their application notarized – as required by the Michigan constitution - free of charge. Go to Michigan.gov/FreeNotary or visit your local Secretary of State branch office to get your application notarized for free.
Working with partner organizations to disseminate application information.
Hosting and attending community meetings, workshops, and town halls in communities across the state.
We hope each and every Michigander can participate in the redistricting process – even if they do not apply or are not randomly selected to be a commissioner. It is critical that people participate in the map drawing process after the commission is formed, 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.
Q: If I receive a random mailing, can I still apply online?
Yes. If you receive a random mailing, you can still apply online at RedistrictingMichigan.org.
If you apply online and you are one of the thousands of randomly selected Michiganders who receive a mailed application, you will still be marked in the database as a mailing recipient for the purposes of the statistically weighted random drawing of 200 semi-finalists in June 2020.
Q; I filled out my application and signed it in the presence of a notary. Now what?
You have two options for returning your application to the Department of State.
Mail the application to
Michigan Department of State
PO Box 30318
Lansing, MI 48909
Drop off your application at your local Secretary of State branch office.
Applications must be returned by June 1, 2020.
Q: I hold a position that I think might prohibit me from serving as a commissioner, but I’m not sure. How do I know if I am eligible to serve?
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 has provided guidance on these eligibility criteria, which can be found here. If you have additional questions after reviewing the criteria, please email Redistricting@Michigan.gov.
Q: The constitution says that a commissioner must “not currently or in the past 6 years” hold particular offices or jobs. When does that six year time frame begin?
The six-year time frame begins August 15, 2014.
The constitution’s ineligibility criteria and six year time frame applies to “commissioners” – as opposed to “applicants” – so the six years is from the date commissioners will be selected. The final random selection of 13 commissioners must be done any time between August 1, 2020 and September 1, 2020. The application to serve as commissioner uses August 15, 2020 as a reasonable mid-point after which it is likely the commissioners will be seated.
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.
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?
According to the Constitution, the commissioners will receive compensation equal to 25% of the Governor’s salary, which amounts to approximately $40,000.
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: 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 indicates 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: 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 – 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.