Rep Ann Bollin
COLUMN: Time to end redistricting commission’s reckless spending spree
RELEASE|May 24, 2024
Contact: Ann Bollin

Published in the Detroit News on May 23, 2024

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) was sold to Michigan voters as a way to end partisan gerrymandering. Instead, it has become a symbol of reckless spending and fiscal mismanagement, burdening Michigan taxpayers with unnecessary costs and endless infighting.

Since its inception in September 2020, the MICRC has already spent more than $10 million. The figures are staggering: $4,120,000 paid to various law firms and $1,370,900 spent on line-drawing consultants that produced maps ruled unconstitutional for disadvantaging Black voters in Detroit. Legal challenges ensued that will ultimately end up costing taxpayers an additional $1.8 million in plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs.

If it weren’t our tax dollars on the line, the poor decisions MICRC has made over the years would seem like a cringy yet humorous plot in a spinoff of The Office. At one point, they even approved spending $50,000 for a documentary about their work – a vanity project that serves no public interest.

In 2021, they paid an algorithm-based mapping vendor for a sales presentation – even though vendors trying to secure a contract typically provide demonstrations at no cost.

Their reckless spending can’t just be chalked up to inexperience, either. Nearly four years into what most thought would be a one- to two-year job, the MICRC continues to blow through its budget and return to the Legislature with their hands out for more.

Four months into the current fiscal year, MICRC had already spent 55% of its annual budget – voting during its March 2024 meeting to send a letter to the House and Senate appropriations committee chairs requesting an additional $3.33 million.

Undeterred by their rapid spending, a majority of commissioners then voted to give themselves a substantial raise during the same meeting. Their salaries, set by the Constitution at 25% of the governor’s salary – or about $40,000 – have now increased to more than $55,000. That’s a 40% hike they tried to justify by the need to fix their flawed maps. This move is a blatant example of fiscal irresponsibility, self-interest, and disrespect to the voters and taxpayers.

And let’s not forget the two redistricting commissioners who collected salaries for serving on the commission while living out of state. Dustin Witjes and Douglas Clark both submitted their resignations days after reports revealed both commissioners had been living out of state for more than a year. Another commissioner, Anthony Eid, accepted then resigned from two different jobs with groups that tried to influence the mapmaking process – all while still collecting his MICRC salary.

The MICRC’s lack of accountability is glaring. Taxpayers have no direct recourse to hold the commission accountable as its members cannot be recalled and meetings are held virtually, limiting public engagement. This lack of transparency and responsibility is unacceptable, especially given the significant financial impact on Michigan residents.

Looking ahead to the redistricting cycle after the 2030 census, it’s crucial to implement strict measures to control spending. We need stringent budget oversight, more public accountability, transparent financial reporting, and most importantly fair maps.

The MICRC’s wasteful and negligent behavior must be stopped. Michigan taxpayers deserve a redistricting process that is fair, impartial, and fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, we will likely need to put another constitutional amendment on the ballot to put an end to the commission’s reckless spending and ensure real accountability.


— State Rep. Ann Bollin, of Brighton Township, represents the 49th House District, which spans portions of Livingston and western Oakland counties.

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