The Partisan Implications of a Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission: Examining the 2022 Midterm Elections in Michigan

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Name: Carter Schmidt
Major: Political Science
Advisors: Megan Wrobel, Erik Davis

This research examines the question of whether a nonpartisan redistricting commission is capable of creating more partisan-neutral electoral districts in the State of Michigan. For decades, Republicans in Michigan used partisan gerrymandering to manipulate the boundaries of electoral districts to maintain control of the state legislature. However, in 2018, Michigan voters adopted a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to create the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The Commission was tasked with creating a partisan-neutral electoral map which would first be used in the 2022 midterm elections.

I hypothesized that due to the redistricting done by the Redistricting Commission, Michigan’s state Senate and state House of Representatives would flip to Democratic control. This is significant because Democrats had not had control of both chambers of the state legislature in more than 30 years, despite periods of control of the governorship and predominantly Democratic control of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. In November 2022, the results of the midterm elections in Michigan proved both my hypotheses to be correct.

After the election, I compared the 2021 Apportionment maps created by the Commission to the maps created in 2011 by the Republican legislature during the previous redistricting cycle to find the geographic change within each district. Next, I analyzed district-level electoral outcomes from 2018, 2020, and 2022 to measure the change in partisanship after the 2021 redistricting cycle. Overall, the data showed that the map created by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission created more competitive elections across the state. This resulted in the Democratic control of both chambers of the state legislature after the 2022 midterm elections.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 12, 2023.

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