Some Detroiters will be placed in a different City Council district for 2025 elections.
The City Council is planning to adopt new district boundaries in January 2024 as part of a charter-mandated process required every decade. Five options were created for the council to consider, which each aims to fairly divide the city’s 639,000 residents between seven districts. Residents will select the next City Council in November 2025 using whichever map is adopted by the current council.
Planning Commission Director Marcell Todd provided a first-look at the options during a special session on Tuesday. Todd recommended council members spend the next two months soliciting feedback from residents in their districts on the proposed changes before holding public hearings in January.
It’s the second redistricting effort since voters passed a referendum in 2009 to elect the council by districts. The first district maps were drawn in 2012. The changes for 2025 elections won’t affect two “at-large” seats on the nine-member council. Candidates run for the at-large seats separately, and the top two vote-earners serve on the council.
Several residents representing neighborhood block clubs across Detroit asked the council to keep their neighborhood within the same district.
Greenway Heritage Conservancy Executive Director Lamanda Matthews said dividing the Midwest-Tireman neighborhood would strike a blow to strategic planning efforts in the area. Other residents demanded public participation in the redistricting process.
“Changes to this community feels like disrupting a family bond, jeopardizing the very essence that has propelled our progress,” Matthews said.
Other residents said the public has been provided little to no information about the proposed changes.
“We need to be clear with residents that the City Council boundaries are changing and not neighborhood boundaries,” said Renard Monczunski, a transit advocate who lives in District 6. “The fact that you failed to provide maps to the public so we could properly deliberate about this, the city is late on this process.”
Council President Pro Tem James Tate, who represents District 1, is hosting a conversation on redistricting this weekend. The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at Abayomi Community Development Center.
Council Member Gabriela Santiago-Romero said she will hold a redistricting town hall on Dec. 6, at a yet to be determined time and location.
Todd said drawing the maps was challenging for several reasons. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 population count found each council district lost residents in the last decade. Each district must contain roughly the same number of residents.
“Despite the expressed concerns with the census numbers and challenges the city put forward, it is undeniable the city has lost population,” Todd said. “With any change in population, redistricting will be necessary to ensure there is fair proper representation across those districts.”
Population declines were most significant in District 3, represented by Council Member Scott Benson, and District 4, represented by Council Member Latisha Johnson. District 4 lost 19,745 residents, a decline of 20 percent since 2010. District 3 shed 16,384 residents, a 17 percent decline.
The 2020 census found Detroit’s population declined by 10.5 percent overall. Each district is required to contain roughly 91,000 residents. The population gap between the largest district and the smallest district should not exceed 10 percent.
The city should also avoid district boundaries that divide voting precincts, Todd said. Precinct changes adopted before 2022 elections consolidated 52 precincts, leaving 400 total. Todd said splitting up voting precincts would create a “great deal of confusion for voters.”
City Clerk Janice Winfrey also asked the council to respect the boundaries of voting precincts, warning that confusion at the polls could cause voter disenfranchisement.
Detroit’s oddly shaped borders, and the existence of Hamtramck and Highland Park within city limits, also have a major impact on the shape of each district.
Adam Saxby, an attorney with the city’s Law Department, said primary considerations for the new maps also included an intent to keep each district as close to equal population as possible, and making each district compact and contiguous. Other considerations included preserving the communities and keeping the core geography of each district intact.
The City Charter calls for updated districts at least 120 days before the next primary election, which is scheduled for Aug. 5, 2025. Todd said the City Council should adopt the new maps sooner to give time for any legal challenges and give candidates time to ensure they live within the district they plan to represent.
City Council candidates are required to live within the district they are running to represent at least one year before the election. The next general election is scheduled for Nov. 4, 2025, so candidates should reside in their district by Nov. 4, 2024. The filing deadline for candidates is April 22, 2025.