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LGBT Detroit Fights to Make Palmer Park a Single Voting Block in New Redistricting Initiative

Organization urges commission to keep the neighborhood together on new district map

Jason A. Michael

Last month Equality Michigan's Erin Knott urged LGBTQ+ voters to get involved in the redistricting process to create more local representation and realign Michigan's voting districts, which have long skewed in favor of Republicans. LGBT Detroit will play an important role in the next step in the process, about a month's worth of public hearings. 

Speaking at one or possibly more of the hearings will be a representative from the agency. They'll advocate for a worked-up map of the Palmer Park area their team submitted to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). LGBT Detroit argues that the area shouldn't be broken up and should be allowed to vote as one voting block, which will allow for more LGBTQ+ people of color to have their voices heard — and for more LGBTQ+ POC to be elected.

"You can submit various types of maps, such as a district map, which shows what you think the district should look like for the state house and senate," said LGBT Detroit's legislative advocacy specialist, Jerron Totten. "You can also submit a map of community interest. This is just mapping out an area of people who have something in common."

In the Palmer Park area, there is a large concentration of LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color. 

"We submitted the map of Palmer Park in March," Totten said. "Right now, the LGBT Detroit Palmer Park map has more comments than any other map in the state."

The map, complete with a historical narrative written by historian and Pride Source writer Tim Retzloff, urges that the area shouldn't be split in half.

"Gerrymandering doesn't just happen to divide racial communities," said Totten. "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. 

"Their first draft of maps cuts Palmer Park right down the middle," Totten said. "They have seen our public comments – all 100 comments – from people who support the map not splitting up Palmer Park and they still decided to split it in half. So that's our next step, showing up to the Commission meetings and letting them know we're not happy with what they're done and demanding that they change it."

LGBT Detroit's redistricting efforts are funded with the help of their partners Michigan Voices, Michigan Nonprofit Association and Black Voters Matter. This initiative is part of the organization's Pride Decides campaign, which is focused on voter engagement and outreach. The program was launched last year leading up to the general election. Through their efforts, LGBT Detroit was able to reach out to over 55,000 people in the 13th and 14th districts and assist them in voting during the pandemic.

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