By Erin Einhorn
PORT HURON, Mich. — In a country where Democrats and Republicans have spent the past year battling over allegations of election fraud and attempts at voter suppression, the earnest scene playing out in a conference room here last week almost didn’t make sense.
The stakes were high. A commission charged with redrawing Michigan’s political boundaries was preparing to make crucial decisions that could affect the future of the state — and even the nation.
Yet there was no heckling, no chanting, no catcalls.
Instead, the roughly 70 people gathered in a brightly lit convention hall at the base of an international bridge that connects Michigan with Canada listened respectfully as one speaker after another offered ideas for how the state’s legislative and congressional districts should be drawn.
An environmental advocate asked for a district linking towns along the nearby St. Clair river so future representatives might prioritize its water quality.
A Methodist pastor requested a district that would consider the needs of religious voters, keeping churchgoers together.
A farmer and union leader asked for the rural and tourism communities in Michigan’s thumb region — named for its location in the mitten-shaped state — to be grouped together in a district separate from the industrial areas closer to Detroit. That way, he said, the thumb would have elected officials focused on agriculture rather than on industry.
“I don’t think we get a fair shake up here,” said the farmer, Dick Cummings, 78.