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Michigan redistricting meeting delayed for hours by death threat

The redistricting process has become incredibly political in recent years.

A meeting hosted by the commission in charge of redistricting in Michigan was delayed for hours over a death threat, a spokesman for the commission told NBC News.

“At 1:06 p.m. today, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission received notification of a death threat received through email. We alerted law enforcement and they opened an investigation,” Edward Woods III, communications and outreach director for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, said in a text to NBC News.

U.S. states redraw their district maps for national and local elections based on census data routinely, in a process known as redistricting. The process has become incredibly political in recent years, with lawmakers in both parties carving out political advantages for themselves through the process. In 2018, Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative that tasked an independent commission of citizens to handle the map-drawing instead of lawmakers.

The hearing allowed Michigan residents to give feedback on proposed district maps, either virtually or in person. It was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET, with the in-person component taking place at a Michigan State University facility in East Lansing.

It reconvened after 3 p.m., and commissioners voted to reduce the amount of time for which members of the public could speak to 30 seconds, from the usual one minute.

Julianne Pastula, the attorney for the commission, said the adjournment and shortened public comment portion of the meeting that followed were directly tied to the death threat. She added that the commission decided to continue the meeting to complete the day's agenda.

"The commission, if it convenes the meeting, it has to take public comment, and that was why the time was shortened to 30 seconds for public comment — the commission had a desire to be done with the business prior to nightfall," Pastula said at a press conference.

MSU's campus police were contacted about the threat, and they sent additional patrols to the site of the commission's meeting, a spokesperson for Michigan State Police said.

"The Michigan Department of State has since requested that this matter be further investigated by the Michigan State Police. This investigation is in the preliminary stages; there is no threat to the public at this time," Shanon Banner, a spokesperson for Michigan State Police, said.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson condemned the threat in a statement to NBC News.

"There is no place for violence or the threat of violence in our democracy, and today's deadly threat against the citizen commissioners and staff of Michigan's independent redistricting commission is an affront to every Michigander," she said in the statement. "Yet I remain confident that they will not be intimidated or deterred from carrying out their constitutional duty and redrawing the legislative maps in service of all the voters of our great state."