LGBTQ+ Southeast Michigan Residents Urged to Weigh in on New Election District Maps

Ferndale and Palmer Park voters have opportunity to forge stronger voting block

Sarah Bricker Hunt

As Michigan voters look ahead to what is sure to be a contentious 2024 election cycle, one overarching — and often, overlooked — issue looms large: the future of Michigan’s House and Senate election district maps. The outcome of an upcoming court battle focused on which newly drawn district map will be approved has the potential to dilute or strengthen a local LGBTQ+ community voting block and impact legislative representation throughout the state.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC), a bipartisan citizen’s group established through a ballot initiative in 2018 to create fair maps, has been working on the project since 2019. It’s been a slow, uphill battle that has included multiple lawsuits, a global pandemic and constant scrutiny to ensure the process adheres to required legal parameters and, most recently, the guidelines imposed by a judge in the recent Agee v. Benson case, who will decide whether to approve the map submitted by the MICRC or one created by a court-appointed special master.

The MICRC is holding three hearings where local citizens can weigh on their proposed maps in February:

  • Thursday, Feb. 15, 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. — Virtual. Residents must use this Zoom link to login to this hearing, and must raise their hands virtually to make comments. (Recess from noon-1 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit, MI 48219. (Recess from 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. at Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre Road, Detroit, MI 48212. (Recess from 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.)

Detroiters unable to attend any of the public meetings can still submit comments on the MICRC website at or call 1-866-627-3247 (866-MAP-FAIR). Citizens can even submit their own map suggestions at the website.

The judge’s decision about which map to approve will have a significant impact on the 2024 election. Not only will newly drawn districts change who will represent voters in each area, but redistributing voters across new districts could weaken or increase the voting power of residents who are part of unifying “communities of interest.” Agee v. Benson centered on one such community of interest — Black voters in Detroit. In December, a judge ruled against the MICDC, determining that the citizen’s group had violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of Black voters. The MICDC is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and working to adhere to the judge’s ruling in the meantime. 

LGBTQ+ voters in Metro Detroit make up a key community of interest, as well. When the first maps were drawn by the MICRC in 2021, Detroit’s Palmer Park neighborhood was split in half, diluting the strength of the LGBTQ+ community of interest in this part of the region. One potential new House district proposed by LGBTQ+ advocates would combine Ferndale and the Palmer Park neighborhood.

“This is where we need folks to come out and let us know which configurations they like best,” MICRC Commissioner Anthony Eid says. “We have a total of nine collaborative drafts out and one individual draft — some of those drafts include Ferndale without Palmer Park and Palmer Woods, but there are other folks, for example, who might not want the districts to cross Eight Mile. If the Commission decides that type of configuration, Ferndale and Palmer Park would not be in a district together. Instead, Ferndale would be with cities like Royal Oak, Huntington Woods and other Oakland County cities, while Palmer Park would be with other Detroit neighborhoods.” 

The judge ruled that several districts must be redrawn, including seven House districts: 

  • House District 1 – Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit)
  • House District 7 – Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit)
  • House District 8 – Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park)
  • House District 10 – House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit)
  • House District 11 – Rep. Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods)
  • House District 12 – Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe)
  • House District 14 – Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit)

Six Senate districts must also be redrawn:

  • Senate District 1 – Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor)
  • Senate District 3 – Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit)
  • Senate District 6 – Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township)
  • Senate District 8 – Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak)
  • Senate District 10 – Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren)
  • Senate District 11 – Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe)

The process has been laborious, but Eid still thinks Michigan’s citizen-led approach is superior to the closed-door process it replaced. “Instead of the politicians drawing the lines, the people that draw the lines now are a group of random applicants —  Michigan voters who are regular everyday folks without much political experience and not necessarily experts in map drawing or in gerrymandering or in politics,” he says. The 13 members of the commission include five independents, four Democrats and four Republicans. 

MICRC Chair Brittni Kellom, a native Detroiter, urges all residents to take advantage of these new opportunities to speak up because their opinions will make a difference. “The commissioners are your neighbors — regular people — making an effort to genuinely listen to citizens, so we need you,” Kellom said in a press release. “We need the history of the people with the specifics of the community. We cannot draw equitable maps that reflect real people without Detroit citizens.”

Ultimately, the MICRC is carrying out the work of voters who overwhelmingly approved the 2018 Constitutional Amendment ballot initiative, which was passed with a 62% margin. The LGBTQ+ community of interest has been integral throughout the map creation process, Eid says — voices that are once again urgently needed as the group tackles this latest redistricting attempt. 


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