In November 2018, Michigan voters passed an amendment to the state constitution to establish an independent commission of citizens to revise Michigan’s district boundaries for the state senate, state house of representatives, and the U.S. Congress every 10 years.
The new commission began its work in September 2020 and completed the redistricting process on November 1, 2021. The very next month, a team of volunteers, staff, and fellows with the nonpartisan pro-democracy organization Voters Not Politicians (VNP), a partner organization with the Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program, began evaluating the redistricting effort in order to inform the commission and its work when it is next convened in 2030.
Jake Hawes, a Ph.D. student in the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability and member of its Urban Sustainability Research Group, joined the team as a winter 2022 fellow. With the support of Rackham’s intern fellowship initiative, he was able to work with VNP while still pursuing his dissertation. Hawes focused on evaluating the public education and community of interest efforts undertaken by VNP during the redistricting cycle.
“I’ve always been really engaged in the political process and interested in redistricting as a concept,” Hawes says. “I specialize in environmental sustainability and social justice, so redistricting was totally new to me—the learning curve was steep, but I’ve learned so much about the redistricting process, about Michigan’s unique approach, and about the role of researchers like me in the process.”