Three years have passed since Michigan voters adopted Proposal 18-2 to take congressional and state legislative district map drawing control from the Michigan Legislature and give it to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC).
The Commission is comprised of 13 Michigan citizens who were randomly selected from an applicant base of over 9,000 Democrats, Republicans and non-affiliated voters. So that neither mainstream political party has a majority, four Democrats, four Republicans and five non-affiliated commissioners sit on the MICRC.
On December 30, the MICRC will choose congressional and state house and senate maps from 15 draft map proposals that try to redraw constituent voting boundaries that better balance population, geography, communities of interest, partisan interests and other factors. Nine of the proposals under consideration were designed collaboratively and six were drawn by individual commissioners.
“Instead of legislators drawing lines for their best interests, citizens would draw lines that represent their best interests and respect their historical, cultural, or economic perspectives,” says the Commission on its official website.
Among the constituent and citizen groups joining the MICRC’s year-long public comment and participatory cycle was the ANC of Michigan which had a particular interest in the congressional maps being redrawn for southeast Michigan where most of Michigan’s Armenian-American population lives and votes.
“The ANC of Michigan is always working for the interest of the Armenian community in Michigan,” said ANC of Michigan chair Dzovinar Hatsakordzian about why the ANC participated in the redistricting process. “We identified the importance of the redistricting process and its implications for our community.
“Through our extensive research, we tried to understand where our community members reside in Michigan and studied the different map options,” Hatsakordzian added. “All of the options were fair for our community except one, which would separate our community in Farmington Hills from the communities in Novi and West Bloomfield. We decided to voice our concern at the MICRC’s hearing in Detroit where Hayg Oshagan presented our views to the commissioners.”
Oshagan, an ANC activist, was deeply involved in helping Michigan’s minority communities become educated about the redistricting process through their ethnic media sources under a grant obtained by New Michigan Media, a non-profit he established and has directed since 2010.
“This is our chance to make sure that the maps [the MICRC commissioners] choose fairly represent our minority communities,” Oshagan noted. “The issue at stake for our communities is our voice in Michigan and in federal politics. Can we elect someone who will represent us well? Do we have enough of us in a district to make sure our concerns are listened to? Will our elected officials fight for us in Lansing or Washington, DC?
“The best way to make sure we are heard and get the resources we need is to have districts that keep our communities together so that we can vote together. This is why the maps matter.”
In recent public comments on ANC of Michigan’s behalf at TCF Center in Detroit, Oshagan noted the ANC’s support for Version 2 of proposed congressional maps Birch or Apple and voiced additional support for the state’s Arab, Latino and Bengali communities’ map choices, stating that those maps respect the community of interest of southeast Michigan’s Armenian-Americans and keep the Arab, Latino and Bengali communities together in their own districts.
Public comments on the maps close on December 27. Commissioners will vote on final maps on December 30.
Participating in the Michigan redistricting process was an important and lasting learning experience for the ANC of Michigan, Hatsakordzian noted.
“We valued the importance of working with other communities and we are lucky to have an ANC of Michigan member, Hayg Oshagan, who is very involved in the redistricting and mapping process,” she added. “He helped us understand and connect with other communities, such as the Arabic and Bengali communities, and find common map options.
“ANC of Michigan has a responsibility to always represent our community and use every opportunity to ensure our community’s voice is heard. We have a vibrant Armenian-American community in Michigan, and we need to be included in any decision-making process.”