Michigan News Connection

September 7, 2021Available files: mp3 wav jpg

MI Groups: Keep LGBTQ Communities Together in New Voting Maps

Lily Bohlke

LANSING, Mich. -- Michiganders are drawing new voting-district maps, with help from data from the 2020 census, but advocates for LGBTQ political representation say the census figures lack some key information.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are topics not included on the census form. People who live with a same-sex partner are asked to indicate that in the census, but that is it.

Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, said how maps are drawn can determine whether a community has enough voting power to elect representatives that will fight for their issues.

"LGBTQ+ people serving as elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislation, and change the hearts and minds of their colleagues in order to support more inclusive policies," Knott contended.

Among Americans, 5.6% self-identify as LGBTQ, and in younger generations, the number is much higher. Yet fewer than 0.2% of elected officials identify as LGBTQ. In Michigan, there are 37 LGBTQ people elected to office, including the attorney general, three state legislators, two mayors, 28 local officials and three judges.

Elliot Imse, vice president of communications for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said historically, LGBTQ people have been absent from conversations around redistricting. The Fund has started a campaign, "We Belong Together," to urge states to consider LGBTQ Michiganders as "communities of interest" during the redistricting process.

"A line drawn in the middle of a neighborhood with a large LGBTQ population can be the difference between electing an LGBTQ person to a city council or having zero LGBTQ people on that city council," Imse asserted.

Knott added while there is room for improvement for compiling accurate data on LGBTQ people in the state, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has been working to get as much community input as possible.

"The process did allow for dialogue," Knott observed. "There have been dozens of meetings scheduled across the state, in the spring and early summer, for folks to turn out and to talk with representatives of the redistricting process about what's at stake."