Observers recently got a perfect example of the difference between politician-led redistricting and a people-led independent redistricting.

First, the bad, in Florida. A federal court allowed a discriminatory map that eliminates a district giving Black Floridians a voice to be used in the 2024 elections. It’s another example of how governors and legislatures will put their continued power above everything else — at the expense of communities of color.

Common Cause fought for more than two years to restore the Black-opportunity district in North Florida that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature cut into pieces to preserve their power.

It’s a sad, typical result we have seen all over the United States, especially in the South. Only when community leaders mobilize people to participate — like they did in Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina — and as we’ll continue to do in Florida — can communities of color overcome the systems of inequity built by those in power.

But that same week also brought hope. The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was tasked by a reviewing court with drawing new State House maps for this year’s election.

We could have seen in Michigan what we saw in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Ohio and many other states that remain politician-led on redistricting — another secretly drawn gerrymander, games to run out the clock in the courts, and other tricks to keep power. But in Michigan, we didn’t see that.

Instead, we saw transparency. The independent commission got back to work, holding meetings publicly online, and spent days and hours holding public meetings in Detroit. They asked for and reviewed thousands of public comments, in person and submitted through their website. They drew several maps, posted the maps for public input, and then voted publicly on maps that had been available for days, not hours or minutes.

That is what accountability and transparency looks like — public discourse accessible to all voters. And in the end, both a special master tasked by the court, and the court itself, approved new maps that give communities of color a chance to have a bigger voice at the state capitol.

Although it took an extra effort by the people of Michigan, the independent commission delivered fair maps with better representation than elected leaders were able to do in past years. That’s exactly what independent redistricting commissions are designed to do — shine light and include more voices in a process that has historically been kept behind closed doors.

And has it worked beyond Michigan? You bet. Common Cause has been the premiere leader in bringing independent redistricting commissions to the people. We created the first independent citizen-led commission in California in 2008, the country’s most populous state. Californians are voting this year in elections for Congress and the state legislature in districts drawn by the people. And while other states are still wrapped up in lawsuits over district lines, California did not see a single lawsuit. That’s because the process was fair, inclusive and participatory.

But it’s not just blue California. Michigan, four other states and 82 jurisdictions throughout the country have moved to independent redistricting. Why? Because voters should have the power to choose their leaders, not the other way around. And because voters should be able to participate in decisions that will affect the future for themselves and their families for the next decade.

In state after state, people are deciding whether they want to allow elected leaders to put their power and partisanship above the people’s interest or give people the power to put our communities first.