LANSING — The Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) is leading an effort alongside a coalition of partners to provide training and resources to help underrepresented communities give testimony and legislative maps to the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC).
The MNA is a statewide membership organization of 20 nonprofits representing diverse communities in Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids, with a mission to promote “anti-racism and social justice.” The new effort is to promote involvement by communities in the state that have been historically underrepresented in Michigan’s political processes.
In 2018, voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution establishing the state’s first Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission in order have an independent citizens’ voice in how political districts are drawn, to accurately reflect populations and avoid gerrymandering.
According to MNA, the establishment of the ICRC represents a wholesale change in the way Michigan’s legislative district maps are drawn.
Important among these changes are the introduction of transparency to what before was a largely political, behind-closed-doors process and the prominent importance of Communities of Interest, or COI.
The definitions of COI are vast and subjective, but they generally unite around populations who share economic interests or cultural or historical characteristics, says the organization. The definition of COI goes beyond race or ethnicity, though it is common to think of them as so. COI can include historical communities, school districts, economic opportunity zones or communities that shared environmental concerns.
“We are mobilizing nonprofits to transparently achieve fair and impartial maps for Michigan, specifically to promote racial equity so that communities of color have a voice and participate in important decision-making processes that happen at the local, state and federal levels,” said Mariana Martinez, director of Civic Engagement Initiatives at the MNA.
The organization hopes that equal participation by COI in Michigan political districting decisions will lead to more fair, accurate and effective representation.
More info can be found on https://www.mnaonline.org/icrc