Michigan local leaders' views on state's new approach to electoral redistricting

February 22, 2021

This report presents local government leaders' familiarity with Michigan’s new approach to redistricting by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, as well as their perspectives on potential "Communities of Interest" in the areas surrounding their local jurisdictions. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2020 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), conducted between March 30 and June 1, 2020.

Key findings

  • As of spring 2020, familiarity among local government leaders with Michigan’s new approach to redistricting by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was mixed. Statewide, just under half (49%) of local leaders were somewhat familiar—they “have heard of it, and understand it fairly well, but don’t know many details”—while 9% were very familiar and know a great deal about the Redistricting Commission. By contrast, well over a third (41%) were either somewhat unfamiliar (29%), completely unfamiliar (6%), or answered “don’t know” (6%) about the Redistricting Commission, even when prompted with a description of 2018’s Proposal 2 ballot measure that established it through a Constitutional amendment.
    • Officials from the state’s largest jurisdictions—those with over 30,000 residents—were the most likely to be somewhat (64%) or very (20%) familiar with the new Redistricting Commission.
    • In addition, leaders from mostly urban (78%) or fully urban (70%) jurisdictions were more likely to be somewhat or very familiar with the Redistricting Commission than those from mostly rural (61%) or fully rural areas (54%).
  • According to the Constitutional amendment that established the Redistricting Commission, a key consideration in drawing new electoral districts are “Communities of Interest” (COIs), though the amendment describes them only vaguely. For many local leaders, reaction to the concept of COIs was uncertainty or skepticism. When asked to identify local COIs, nearly half (46%) of local officials were not aware of any significant local COIs, or believed the question is not applicable to their jurisdiction or that the concept of COIs and/or the new redistricting process are simply not legitimate, or were unsure what was meant by COIs.
  •  Although relatively few local leaders identified specific local groups or organizations as COIs, those who did often described communities based on economic considerations such as manufacturing, lumber, real estate, tourism, agriculture, or downtown development. Many also mentioned shared public service areas (e.g., firefighting, policing, or other interlocal agreements), rural or urban identities, geographic features (such as coastal communities) or shared outdoor recreational areas.
  • • And although current jurisdictional boundaries are designated as lower priorities than are COIs for the Redistricting Commission to consider in drawing new district lines, a significant proportion of local officials urged the protection of current county, city, village, or township boundaries. And while some local leaders had a difficult time identifying particular local “Communities of Interest,” there seemed to be little trouble identifying neighboring governments with whom their jurisdiction has strong ties.

Very Familiar with Redistricting Commission


In Spring 2020, few Michigan local government leaders were "very familiar" with the redistricting commission, while 49% were "somewhat familiar" Spring 2020 MPPS

Officials identifying economic Communities of Interest


Local officials described local COIs based on economic communities including manufacturing, lumber, real estate, tourism, agriculture, downtown development, and more. Spring 2020 MPPS

Preserving jurisdictional boundaries


14% of local leaders who responded to the question about COIs asked to preserve current jurisdictional or county boundary lines, or to redraw lines that currently split
the township or city.