Why is Redistricting Such a Big Deal?

We’ve already established in our previous Census blog series that one of the reasons the Decennial Census is so important is the redrawing of Congressional districts, or redistricting. Now we’ll talk about the impact of redistricting and the establishment of Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for more equitable redistricting. 

In an effort to make sure that districts are redrawn to best reflect and serve the population, Michigan formed the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission per an amendment to the state constitution voted on in the November 2018 general election. 

We’ll establish how this new Redistricting Commission will be selected, and why it is important for the pool of potential commissioners to align closely with the general state population. But first, let’s take a look at why redistricting is important to begin with.

Why Redistricting Matters

Redistricting on a federal level is essential because it determines how many representatives each state gets in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. An accurate assessment of whether a state has had a significant increase or decrease in population can change the number of representatives. Michigan lost a representative after the 2010 Census, which is why we care so much about getting a complete and accurate count of our population in the 2020 Census. 

The Decennial Census is also used as an opportunity to redistrict on a state and local level. However, there has historically been a major issue that comes up with state redistricting: gerrymandering, or the practice of redrawing district boundaries in a way that benefits one political party over another. 

That’s where the newly formed Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission of Michigan comes into play. The commission will consist of 13 randomly selected Michigan registered voters: four Democratic Party affiliates, four Republican Party affiliates, and five unaffiliated individuals, to promote unbiased redistricting and eliminate gerrymandering.

These 13 individuals will be chosen from a pool of applicants. Applications are being collected through June 1. The state is relying on a robust pool of applicants to select Redistricting Commissioners that are as diverse as Michigan.

Representation Through Redistricting 

The data-driven challenge for this commision is ensuring that the pool of applicants will not only have a fairly even distribution of political party affiliation, but will accurately reflect the demographic diversity of the state’s entire population. In short, the sample of people who will be drawing the districts for state and local representation should look as similar as possible to the state’s population.

The following tables compare the population of Michigan as a whole to the pool of Redistricting Commission applicants as of May 12, 2020. So far, the applicant pool does not provide an accurate sample of Michigan’s population in terms of race, sex, or age. The majority of applicants are white, male, and over the age of 55. 

SOURCE: Race/Ethnicity data from Census Reporter, applicant breakdown from Michigan.gov May 12.

In comparison to the applicant pool, which is 83.8% White, Michigan’s population is less than 75% White⁠ – meaning that people who identify as White may potentially be overrepresented by nearly 10%, while individuals who identify as Black, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino are all underrepresented.

SOURCE: Sex data from Census Reporter, applicant breakdown from Michigan.gov May 12.

Women are also underrepresented. More than half of the general population of Michigan is female, but so far, nearly 60% of commission applicants have been male.

SOURCE: Age  data from Census Reporter, applicant breakdown from Michigan.gov May 12.

Individuals aged 55 and older are significantly overrepresented in the current applicant pool, at a staggering 68.1%. That is more than double the general population count of people over the age of 55. On the other hand, people aged 18-34 are very underrepresented at 8.1% of applicants, compared to 22.5% of the general population. 

In short, so far the sample of the Michigan population that has been captured in the applications for the Redistricting Commission does not reflect what the total state population looks like.

Why Does An Accurate Sample Matter? 

Like differences between a sample and a whole population can skew data, these differences can skew decisions that are made. 

The individuals selected for the Commission are being relied upon to work in the best interest of the entire population of Michigan. Representation matters for all, and a sample of the population that isn’t as diverse as the whole population might not look at things the same way as a more diverse group, or accurate sample. 

Visit  RedistrictingMichigan.org to learn more about the redistricting efforts in Michigan and how you can help. 

And drop by our Census Portal to learn all the different ways the Decennial Census benefits Michigan residents!