Thirteen people will redraw Michigan’s electoral boundaries before the 2022 election.
The Secretary of State’s office hired Rehmann LLC, a Saginaw-based accounting firm, to randomly select 13 Michigan residents to serve on the state’s first Redistricting Commission, charged with drawing new district lines for representatives in Congress and the state legislature. The selections were made in a livestreamed drawing Monday, Aug. 17.
The commissioners, picked from a list of 180 finalists, are from across the state and include an even number of Republicans and Democrats. Each commissioner will make $40,000 and is required to travel to at least 15 public hearings. They can’t hold partisan elective office at the state, county, city, village or township level for five years.
The commission is being assembled as a result of a November 2018 ballot proposal, Proposal 2, which passed with support from 61% of voters. Redistricting was previously handled by the Michigan legislature and approved by the governor, which, Proposal 2 supporters pointed out, allowed politicians to set their own district lines.
Applications were posted publicly and sent to the state legislature. Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate each struck five applicants, for a total of 20, from the selection pool.
The commission must have its first meeting by Oct. 15. All meetings held by the commission must be posted, livestreamed and open to the public.
Each selected commissioner expressed in their applications a desire to serve their community and country.
Of the 13 commissioners chosen, two identify as Black, one person identified as Middle Eastern and the rest all identified as white. The ages of commissioners range between 28 and 73, with only one person being under the age of 30.
M. Carlo Rothhorn
M. Carlo Rothhorn, a 48-year-old white Democrat living in Ingham County, said in his application that he applied to become a redistricting commissioner because he loves the democratic process.
“I grow when serving others. I look forward to it,” Rothhorn wrote.
Rothhorn said in his application he affiliates with the Democratic Party because he believes “we are stronger together, especially when we support each other financially.”
“Historically, this has most aligned with the Democratic Party but I am aware of deep Republican roots in my step-father’s family and I appreciate it more with each passing year,” Rothhorn said.
Erin Wagner, a 54-year-old white Republican living in Charlotte, applied to be a commissioner because she “believes in the process and would like to make sure that the districts are drawn in such a way as to be representative of those who live in those districts.”
Wagner said she affiliated with the Republican Party because it better supports her views.
“However, I have voted across party lines at times when I (felt) as if the candidate is a better fit for the position.”
Anthony Eid, a 28-year-old Middle Eastern man living in Orchard Lake, joined the commission to be more involved in the political process “in an unbiased, unpartisan, evidence-based way.”
“Serving on this committee will help further this goal,” Eid said in his application.
Eid said he doesn’t affiliate with either major political party because there are candidates in each party that he supports for different reasons.
“It is important to look at individuals instead of teams during our political process,” Eid said.
Juanita Curry, a 72-year-old Black woman from Detroit, pastors at Esther’s House Ministries Christian Center and joined the commission to serve her community.
“I would like to get a job where I can be of good service to my community as well as help my church in the process,” Curry said. “I am a honest, trustworthy candidate for this position.”
Curry said she affiliates with the Democratic Party, but doesn’t try to convince others to join her in her political views.
“I am merely affiliated with this particular party due to their views and opinions and my agreements with most of them,” Curry said.
She has worked as a U.S. Postal worker, as a foster care worker and an administrative assistant. She went to Wayne County Community College and Wayne State University.
Douglas Clark, a 73-year-old white man from Rochester Hills, applied to join the commission because “it’s important to insure a fair and impartial redistricting in Michigan.”
“Strong personal characteristics that I can bring to the commission are objectivity, an ability to work with others and an honest and sincere approach to addressing issues of the commission,” Clark said in his application.
Clark affiliates with the Republican Party because he believes the party supports smaller federal government. He isn’t active in the party.
James Decker, a 59-year-old white man from Fowlerville, joined the commission because he believes citizens are “polarized and disengaged.”
“People tend to get their information and opinions from sound-bytes on radio or T.V. We need to work to put aside preconceptions, naivety and prejudices to consider other points of view,” Decker said in his application. “As a society, it is easier to complain and castigate and much harder to work and find solutions to problems. I prefer to solve problems.”
Decker isn’t affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties. He has voted either way in previous elections based on individual candidate qualifications.
“As I have moved through my life from single man to married man to father, and hopefully someday grandfather, the only certainty is that nothing is black or white but lots of shades of gray so I think you can be conservative fiscally and socially, or liberal in your attitudes and those thoughts will always change based upon the circumstances at hand,” Decker said. “A little flexibility goes a long way.”
Brittni Kellom, a 34-year-old Black Democrat from Detroit, applied for the position because she believes in “the power of everyday citizens to effect change in the places in which they live.”
“I believe in the type of innovation that comes from both collaboration and holding space for others,” Kellom said.
Kellom chose not to answer why she is affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Cynthia Orton, a 55-year-old white woman from Battle Creek, applied to join the commission because she takes “voting very seriously.”
“I would like to participate in the process of making sure individual votes count and that elected officials represent the will of the majority of their constituents,” Orton said in her application.
Orton is affiliated with the Republican Party because she agrees with its principles.
“However, I don’t vote along party lines. I vote for individuals that I believe will best represent what I feel is best for our community and country,” Orton said.
Orton said elected officials must be trustworthy and honorable.
“I also believe those who are elected need to work with others, no matter their differences, to build the best possible future for our country,” Orton said.
Janice Vallette, a 68-year-old white woman from Highland Township, applied to join the commission because she feels it “is important that all votes are counted and not wasted.”
“I do not think the district line should be manipulated to favor one party over another,” Vallette said. “The districts should be as fair as possible.”
Vallette isn’t affiliated with either major political party.
“I look at the issues and then research the candidates for their opinion on them. I then vote for the candidate who has opinions closest to mine, keeping in mind which issues are the most important to me,” Vallette said.
Rhonda Lange, a 48-year-old white woman from Reed City, applied for the commission because she thinks it’s a way to serve her community and the state.
“I have most of my adult life considered myself an independent, however, I have a tendency to agree with a lot of conservative/Republican views,” Lange said.
Dustin Witjes, a 31-year-old white man from Ypsilanti, applied for the commission because he has a “strong urge for public service.”
“I want to ensure that the districts in the great state of Michigan have been drawn not to favor any party,” Witjes said.
Witjes is affiliated with the Democratic Party and primarily votes for Democrats, but has voted for “individuals all across the ballot” in the past.
Richard Weiss, a 73-year-old white man from Saginaw, said in his application that he wanted to join the commission because “I am an American.”
“Believe it is my duty to do this if chosen,” Weiss said in his application.
Weiss isn’t associated with either major political party because he “votes for the person who I believe will do the best for the U.S.A.”
Steven Lett is a 73-year-old white man from Interlochen who didn’t answer why he wanted to join the commission, nor why he isn’t affiliated with either major political party in his application.
A list of all the finalists and their applications can be found here.
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