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Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy pres.

The next big thing: Redistricting in Michigan and the role of communities of interest

In 2018 Michigan voters approved a Constitutional amendment to change how redistricting is done in the state, removing the process from the purview of the state legislature and placing it in the hands of a new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC). The amendment also prescribes priorities the ICRC must address when drawing new district maps, placing the concept of "communities of interest" (COIs) near the top of the list.

While COIs have been a part of redistricting in other states, this is a new concept in Michigan, and is not yet widely understood. This webinar will help educate stakeholders about COIs: what they are, the role they will play in Michigan's new redistricting process, and how they can strategize and engage effectively in that process.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), the Program in Practical Policy Engagement, Detroit Public TV, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Voters Not Politicians, the citizen-led grassroots organization that spearheaded the effort to pass the amendment.

For more information contact closup@umich.edu or call 734-647-4091

From the speakers' bios:
Charlie Beall is Co-Chair of the Community Mapping Project. He is also the Data & Targeting Director for Voters Not Politicians and the Count MI Vote Education Fund. He uses the most up-to-date targeting and data techniques to manage thousands of volunteers across the state, and provide strategic guidance on voter contact and evaluation.

John R. Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of political science and public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. His research interests include ethics and public policy, professional ethics, and methods of election and representation. He taught the core course "Values, Ethics, and Public Policy" at the Ford School. He was the founding director of the Ford School's BA in Public Policy program from 2007-2011 and the director of U-M's Center for Ethics in Public Life from 2008-2011. In 2019-20 he directed a student research project at CLOSUP that focused on communities of interest in Michigan's new redistricting system. John has a BS in industrial engineering from Lehigh University and a PhD in decision sciences from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Connie Cook has been an active volunteer with Voters Not Politicians (VNP) since 2017. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Community Mapping Project as well as Special Counsel to the Executive Director of VNP. Connie recently retired from the University of Michigan where she served as Associate Vice Provost, Executive Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and Clinical Professor Emerita in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. Connie’s degrees are all in Political Science: a B.A. from Barnard College, an M.A. from Penn State University, and a Ph.D. from Boston University. She is the author of two books on interest groups and political advocacy.

Molly Kalb is a senior pursuing a BA at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan with dual minors in International Studies and French. With her degree in policy, as well as one day in law, Molly plans to concentrate on immigration and education reform across the country. After graduating this summer, Molly hopes to continue her policy research in D.C.

Safiya Merchant is pursuing a Master in Public Policy degree at the Ford School, class of 2021. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. A Chicago native, Safiya previously worked as a government, crime and education reporter at the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs, and as a K-12 and higher education reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer in West Michigan. Most recently, she worked as a storyteller for the University of Michigan's communications team. Safiya is interested in K-12 education and housing policy, with a specific focus on issues relating to school segregation, homelessness, and equitable education funding strategies.

Mariam Sayeed is pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Ford School, class of 2021. Mariam is originally from Chicago, but has worked in many cities including Pittsburgh exploring the work of policy through community development and civic engagement. She joined the Ford school to pursue a concentration in social policy through international development, immigration reform, and health policy. She looks to continue her career in policy in DC after graduating this upcoming summer from the Ford school.

Sandra Sorini Elser is a volunteer for Voters Not Politicians. She is a 1983 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law. She has practiced law in the Southeast Michigan area for over 35 years. She was the Ann Arbor Township general counsel for 30 years. In addition to public law, her practice focuses on the area of real estate development and land preservation. After retiring from her law firm in January 2020, Ms. Sorini Elser has been an active volunteer in Voters Not Politicians, focusing on the important work of the new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. She also is a volunteer attorney with Legacy Land Conservancy, and Michigan Indian Legal Services. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband Doug, has two sons, four grandchildren, two step-daughters, and two step-granddaughters.

Nancy Wang is the executive director and a founding member of Voters Not Politicians, the grassroots group that led the successful 2018 ballot initiative campaign to amend the Michigan constitution to put voters, not politicians, in charge of redistricting in Michigan. In the 2020 election cycle, VNP launched the VoteSafe campaign to protect public health and the integrity of our elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the VoteSafe program, VNP volunteer teams have helped to expand voting access for over 800,000 Michigan voters in 17 cities and townships, and VNP educated voters statewide on their safe voting options. Nancy is an attorney and received her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

Kermit Williams is the executive director of Oakland Forward whose goal is to remove economic, racial, and social barriers to opportunities with a focus on people of color in Oakland County. Having become engaged in social justice issues while still a teenager, leading a life of service is important to him. His dedication to civic engagement has led him to public office where he currently serves as Pontiac City Council President.

Livestream Information

 Livestream
February 25, 2021 (Thursday) 7:00pm
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