Joyce grantees in Michigan and Ohio have played integral roles advancing policy for fairer implementation of legislative districts for all citizens in those states. These policy shifts come at a time when equitable redistricting—the once-a-decade process of redrawing legislative districts in the year following the census—has become fraught with partisan politics nationwide and left many voters potentially disenfranchised.
In Michigan, the new process, shepherded by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, required map-makers to listen to community input and dismantled the previous process that allowed lawmakers to gerrymander district maps to overwhelmingly favor their party. Lawmakers were excluded from the new mapmaking process and the independent commission created new districts that are no longer skewed to artificially favor one political party over the other. In Ohio, the work of advocates like the League of Women Voters’ of Ohio was paramount in a pair of recent state supreme court decisions striking down as unconstitutional the partisan, lawmaker-drawn congressional and state assembly maps that heavily favored one political party.
The actions in both states still face legal challenges, which is common during the first time using a new process. Several other Great Lakes states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, are also in the process of proposing new legislative maps that could ultimately be approved by state courts.
Still, while the redistricting process is imperfect, accountability and adherence to implementing policy can serve as strong examples for other states, advocates said.
“My hope is that, as a package, as a whole process, people can see Michigan and us having gone through this entire cycle and having come out the other end so successfully,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians in a recent New York Times story. “that there are going to be pieces of our model that get adopted in other states.”
About The Joyce Foundation
Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.