gerrymandering

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

There’s been a lot of attention paid to Michigan’s bizarrely gerrymandered 14th Congressional District, drawn to pack as many Democrats as possible together.

But there has been even more strangeness in its mirror image to the left, the 11th District, similarly designed for Republicans. Shaped something like an irregular claw, the 11th begins with Birmingham and Troy in the east and arcs over to take in Milford and Novi in the west and Livonia and Canton in the South.

This was meant to be GOP territory. But it is not nearly as Republican as the 14th is Democratic. President Obama carried it once, and some think it could send a Democrat to Congress. And it hasn’t been short of controversy.

Two years ago, longtime Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s career ended after his staff filed fraudulent ballot petition signatures.

That left Republicans with Kerry Bentivolio, a Tea Party supporting reindeer farmer. He won and is trying for a second term.

Less than two years ago, Congressman Gary Peters and his supporters spent nearly $2 million to win a congressional seat different from the one he already held, and one in which he did not live. That wasn’t really his fault.

Michigan lost a seat in Congress. Redistricting had largely eliminated his old district, and Peters had to run somewhere. In this case, he ended up running against another Democratic incumbent, Hansen Clarke, in the oddest shaped district in our history.

The current 14th looks like an old man sitting in a chair with his legs tucked under. His head is Pontiac, his neck, Keego Harbor, His body takes in a wide swath of Oakland County suburbs, from West Bloomfield through Farmington Hills and Southfield, before expanding to include many poor neighborhoods in Detroit. Finally, the legs take in the Grosse Pointes, and the feet end up in a Hispanic neighborhood near the coming new Detroit River Bridge.

This doesn’t exactly fit the ideal standard for a district composed of communities with common interests, but it did fit the needs of the Republican legislature, which wanted to pack as many Democrats into as few districts as possible. Plus, they felt that the Voting Rights Act required them to create two districts that had a majority of African-American residents.

Here’s something to think about: Michigan is pretty clearly a moderate to liberal state. We haven’t voted Republican for President for a quarter-century. Democrats won 12 out of the last 13 contests for the U.S. Senate. More people voted for Democratic than Republican candidates for Congress and the legislature last fall.

Yet guess what. We sent only five Democratic congressmen to Washington compared to nine Republicans. And the GOP still has a solid majority in the state House of Representatives. That’s because of outrageous gerrymandering two years ago by the previous legislature, which was also Republican.

kevinrosseel / MorgueFile

State House Republican leaders say they have no plans to scrap discussions about splitting Michigan’s Electoral College votes between congressional districts.         

Both Governor Rick Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville have said they’re not on board with the idea. Snyder says it would be better to consider changes closer to the next census, when congressional lines are re-drawn.

But House Speaker Jase Bolger said there’s no reason to wait that long.

Two top Republicans in Lansing say they’re not on board with a plan to split Michigan’s Electoral College votes.

Lawmakers have been expecting a bill that would divide the state’s electoral votes by congressional district.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said that would make the state less important in presidential elections.

“At this point in time, I’m still sticking to my guns. I think the bigger package of votes for the winner brings more attention to the state and keeps us united. So I haven’t been convinced otherwise yet,” Richardville said.

States could make sweeping changes to Electoral College

Jan 22, 2013
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In his commentary this morning, Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry pointed to what he is calling a Republican plan to rig presidential election results.

Currently, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all of a state’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video, Flickr

We’re used to some level of dirty politics in our elections, even presidential elections  -- in fact, smears, nastiness and exaggeration have been around since the time of George Washington.

But we draw the line at trying to actually rig the election results. When the verdict is in, it’s in, and everybody accepts the result.

Except now certain Republicans around the country have a plan to rig presidential election results to virtually guarantee that any Republican would win the presidency, even if they really lost.

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus has endorsed this plan, members of his party are actively pushing it in Pennsylvania, and Governor Snyder says it is worth thinking about in Michigan.  The truth is that it is not only unfair, but has the potential, if adopted, to make Michigan less relevant in presidential elections.

Courtesy of Detroit City Council website

The Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow over a state law allowing Republicans to draw county commission boundaries in Oakland County.  

Just released emails seem to show Oakland County Republicans tried to circumvent the rules to maintain control of the county commission.

“Clearly there has been a collusionary attempt on the part of the Republican legislators in this body from Oakland County," says Vicki Barnett, a Democratic state lawmaker from Farmington Hills. 

Barnett says it’s a “major breach of trust in the government system”. 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld part of a lower court's ruling involving redistricting in Oakland County.

The court ruled Wednesday that the law passed last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature was a local act affecting only one government and needed to pass with two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to meet state constitutional requirements.

A judge has overturned a state law that scrapped Oakland County’s new commission map and gave Republican elected officials the power to draw a new one.

The challenge was filed by Democrats who say the law was simply a GOP power grab.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a struggle for political power in the former Republican bastion that’s now a battleground county.

user bull-doser / wikimedia commons

Governor Rick Snyder has approved measures that redraw Michigan’s legislative and congressional districts. The new maps were approved by the Legislature’s Republican majorities in an intensely partisan battle. But this may not be the final word on the state’s new district maps. 

Michigan loses a congressional seat in the new maps to reflect the loss of population in the most recent census. The new lines throw at least two incumbent Democrats into the same district.  

The U.S. Army / Flickr

The new redistricting maps drawn up by the Republican majorities in the Michigan Legislature are unveiled and Democrats are not happy.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry gives some historical context to the upcoming fight over redistricting.  He spoke to Michigan Radio's Jenn White.  You can here the interview here.

The rules are different than they used to be, but basically all districts should have the same population, for congressional districts, exactly the same, according to Lessenberry. State legislative districts can have up to a 5% variation.

He says this was not the case in the 1960's.

"Before the U. S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960's there was no requirement that they have the same population. So you had, in the case of Michigan, both congressional districts and legislative districts that were several times larger than one or the other one, and they each got one representative."

Lessenberry gives us a lesson on gerrymandering and explains the origin of the term. In 1812, Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts presided over the drawing of a district that was shaped as a salamander.

(Flickr ziggy fresh)

The 2010 Census figures, released last month, announced that Michigan was the only state in the nation to lose population in the last decade. Now it is up to the states to redraw their congressional districts based on the findings of the Census.

Redistricting can play a big role in the political makeup of both state and federal representation. In Michigan, citizens are waiting to see how the Republican-dominated Legislature will handle the task of reshaping the state’s congressional districts.

The main objective of redistricting is to create congressional districts with roughly equal populations in each district, says John Chamberlin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“It takes account of the fact that people move around the state or people move out of the state. In 2010, if you looked at the populations in state House districts, for instance, there are disparities. So redistricting resets the clock back to roughly equal populations.”

Each state handles the task of redistricting differently. In Michigan, redistricting is treated as legislation, with the Legislature creating a bill for passage by the governor. Because the Republican Party controls the Michigan state Senate, House, and governorship, the task of redistricting will fall solely to the Republicans.

Due to the fact that Michigan lost population since the last redistricting took place, the state will lose one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Through redistricting, the Michigan Legislature must determine where to combine districts in order to eliminate the district of one U.S. Representative, explains Chamberlin.

(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

A state House panel will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps this week at the state Capitol. The redistricting process works like any other law that is approved by the Legislature and then moves on to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The new political map will also most likely be contested and end up in front of the Michigan Supreme Court. But with all areas of government controlled by Republicans, many Democrats are skeptical that the process will be fair.   

Republican state Representative Pete Lund will chair the committee.       

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos / Creative Commons

A state House panel next week will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps. The first hearing will focus on results from the 2010 U-S Census.  

Michigan lost population over the past decade, and the state will lose a seat in the U.S. House. With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters.          

The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund led the successful GOP push to retake the Michigan House last fall. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

David Erickson / Flickr

The state of Michigan will formally recieve its 2010 U.S. Census data tomorrow .   We already know that the data will show Michigan was the only state in the union to lose population between the 2000 and 2010 census.  We should also learn where that population loss will be felt the most. 

The Associated Press reports that the census data will get very specific.  Among the data will be population summaries by race, Hispanic origin and voting age for jurisdictions such as counties, cities and school districts.

The state of Michigan will receive detailed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau next week.  The information will have far reaching effects.  In December, Michigan learned its population slipped by about 54 thousand , to just under 9.9 million people.  Now the details. 

The new census data breaks down Michigan’s population into a number of subsets, including race and ethnicity.  

The dean of Michigan's congressional delegation plans to stay in Washington. John Dingell says he plans to run again for the seat he's held since the mid-50's.

Here's the Associated Press story:

Two months after winning a 28th full term in the U.S. House, Michigan's John Dingell says he's going for 29. The 84-year-old Dearborn Democrat tells The Detroit News he'll be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Dingell has been in Congress since 1955. He calls it "the greatest job in the world."

The man known as "Big John" currently represents the 15th District, which could be in jeopardy as redistricting looms. The number of House seats in Michigan will drop one to 14 next year, and majority Republicans could change up Dingell's district.

It now encompasses the far southeastern portion of the state, including Monroe and Ann Arbor. Dingell says he's "had three bad redistrictings" and has "survived every one of them.