17 June 2011

The Mitten Tightens In Michigan Redistricting

Michigan is the only state in the union that actually lost population after the 2010 Census.  Remarkably, the Great Lake State is only losing one Congressional seat in the redistricting process. Since the population evacuation occurred in and around Mo-town, it was inevitable that southeastern Michigan would end up on the short end of the mitten when it came to reapportionment.   

The Congressional District likely to be eliminated is 2nd term Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI 9th) who represents much of wealthy Oakland County.  Rep. Peters was gerrymandered into a district with 15 term Congressman Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI 12th).  Both Levin and Peters jointly issued a  philippic which bewailed the “unprecedented" gerrymandering:

Instead of drawing fair lines that follow community and county borders in a logical way, the Republican legislature has drafted a map so skewed that it exploits every trick in the book to gerrymander districts in ways that benefit Republican incumbents...The legislature and Governor Snyder should reject this gerrymandered map and draw congressional boundaries in a way that puts Michigan voters' interests squarely ahead of flagrant partisan advantage.

But Peters has vowed that he will not run against the 80-year old Rep. Levin, which is a wise move considering that being the ranking member on House Ways and Means has its privileges.  Hence one can deduce that Sander will not ride off into the sunset quietly.

While Michigan Republicans and Democrats were supposed to release their plans at the same time, but the Democrats withheld their map for over the weekend, hoping that public outcries will change their fate.  But the Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the State House along with Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) retaking the governorship after the Teanami in 2010. In addition, Republican justices have a majority on the State Supreme Court.  So unless the DOJ can muster some mischief via the Voters Right Act, Michigan’s redistricting should basically mirror the GOP plan.

While the redrawn district lines in the Detroit Metropolitan Area represent splotchy ink art, the population evenly proportioned, with two districts that remain Majority-Minority districts.  The redrawn lines gives media savvy conservative 3 term Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI 11th) a much more staunch yet splotchy district.  The proposed 14th Congressional District of 24th Term Representative John Conyers (D-MI 14th) would jump the infamous 8 Mile Road line which divides Detroit from its northern suburbs. The new 14th would unite the old money of Grosse Pointes with some of tony West Bloomfield, while still maintaining a 57% minority demographic.  

The twofold problem for Conyers is that he has not previously represented significant portions of the redrawn district and it would be less blue collar. This will force the 83-year-old Congressman Conyers to campaign hard with a different message than he has previously used.  If the lines for the redrawn 14th CD stand, this could create an opportunity for a Tea Party Type to be quite competitive, since much of the district had been conservative stomping grounds for seven term Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI 9th) prior to his loss in 2006.

This Redistricting Cycle has seen several states, like Virginia, Florida and California idealistically endeavor to create nonpartisan reapportionment. But redistricting is an inherently political process which does not make for a pretty process.  Anyone thinking otherwise just needs to talk to the hand. 

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