Keeping Palmer Park Neighborhood Together Discussed During Redistricting Effort Hearing

LGBT Detroit says redistricting map leaves no room for 'majority Black district in Detroit'

Jason A. Michael

LGBT Detroit is continuing its efforts in support of the Palmer Park neighborhood of Detroit being kept together as one voting block. 

Yesterday, several LGBT Detroit staff members and volunteers spoke at the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) hearing. The Commission, charged with finalizing maps for the new proposed U.S. congressional districts, the Michigan Senate districts and the Michigan House districts, has ignored pleas to keep Palmer Park together. This is despite the fact that LGBT Detroit's proposed map has received more comments and feedback – over 100 – than any other proposed map so far.

The issue at hand is LGBTQ+ representation. Of the maps MICRC has drawn, none of them include Palmer Park as a cohesive geographical area. The U.S. congressional maps cover it at 78 percent. The Michigan senate map covers it at 75 percent. And the Michigan house map covers it at only 28 percent.

Keeping the Palmer Park area, known as something of an LGBTQ+ enclave, together as one voting block means that LGBTQ+ people living in the area would make a more significant impact at the polls. It will also give LGBTQ+ people a better chance to be elected to local office. 

"Gerrymandering doesn't just happen to divide racial communities," Jerron Totten, LGBT Detroit's legislative advocacy specialist, told Pride Source in a previous story. "There are people who would not want to see gay people vote together or gay people hold public office. Just like there's racist gerrymandering to see that Black people don't vote together and their votes don't hold the political power as much as other votes."

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the MICRC appears to need convincing to keep the neighborhood together. 

"Their first draft of maps cuts Palmer Park right down the middle," said Totten.

LGBT Detroit put out the call looking for people to speak at yesterday's hearing and offer supportive public comment and encourage the Commission to do the following:

  • Keep Palmer Park together in the congressional districts by using either mapID#P900 or mapID#P467, which are both fair to each party.
  • Keep Palmer Park together in the Michigan State Senate districts by using mapID#P1502, which is fair to each party.

Totten was just one of more than 160 people who provided public comment. A separate but similar issue frequently raised was the fact the proposed maps break apart majority Black communities and will, opponents say, weaken the Black vote.

"As it stands now, and this is very important, the maps that the Commission proposed leave no majority Black district in Detroit," Totten said. "This means that Black districts have been diluted so much by the proposed redistricting that Black people have no voting majority in any district the Commission is proposing. And that's very concerning."

Despite the outcry, Totten said he is unconvinced that the Commission will take any action to rectify the situation.

"We're not confident that they're going to do that," he said. "We believe they have no interest at all in changing any of the maps. So, come Nov. 5, [when the final maps are due] we believe we'll be faced with the same maps and that what people are going to have to do is sue the Commission. We believe that will happen."