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Member's new job raises flags for redistricting commission

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted this new state House map in December.
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted this new state House map.

The group responsible for drawing Michigan’s new legislative district lines is facing an ethics question after one of its members took a new job.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission ended its map drawing over a year and a half ago.

But redistricting Commissioner Anthony Eid’s new leadership role within an advocacy group is raising questions about a possible conflict of interest.

On June 12, Michigan Voices announced Eid would be taking over as the group’s deputy director.

Commission Chair Douglas Clark said there will be a discussion on the topic at the commission's next meeting on July 20.

“Each commissioner will be able to communicate their opinions on the subject and my expectation is that they will be truthful, forthright, and nothing will be second hand, it will be pure facts,” Clark said.

Clark said there’s also a legal review underway over Eid’s new position. That should provide some guidance on what the constitution says on the matter and whether the group’s adopted code of conduct could carry enough weight to potentially stop the hire.

One source of conflict is the group’s involvement in the map-drawing process. During a previous commission meeting, some commissioners expressed discomfort with the group’s perceived liberal tint.

Michigan Voices is officially a non-partisan organization.

The Detroit News noted text on the Michigan Voices website bragging about its work when it came to redistricting.

“Our Democracy Workgroup partners engaged with MICRC right up until they approved the final maps. On multiple occasions, the MICRC changed course and edited their maps in real-time, directly impacted by our partners’ public comments,” the website reads.

Despite that language, Eid, Michigan Voices, and the redistricting commission maintain the group had no outsize influence on the process.

“They had no direct preferential influence on behalf of — toward the commission, but they were instrumental in recruiting the groups and individuals to be a part of participating in the engagement process,” commission Executive Director Edward Woods III told reporters Monday.

He said the organization helped solicit feedback and hold town halls.

Meanwhile, Michigan Voices Executive Director Sommer Foster emphasized she had no prior contact with Eid before he applied.

“We had an open application process and the job was posted for about 3 - 4 months before we made a hiring decision. We had several applicants apply and went through a four-step interview process,” Foster said in an email. “We hired Anthony Eid because we believe that he was the best applicant for the position.”

Aside from a planned discussion at a future meeting, the commission is preparing for oral arguments on dispositive motions in the last remaining lawsuit against it. Those are set for July 13.