Redistricting in Michigan

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Redistricting in Michigan
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General information
Partisan control:
Legislative authority; Governor can veto
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
Redistricting in other states
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
Redistricting in Michigan is handled by the State Legislature. Michigan is one of over 30 states in which lawmakers are responsible for drawing new maps. As the only state in America to lose population, Michigan had to give up a Congressional seat. 2010 marked the fourth consecutive decade in which Michigan lost a seat due to reapportionment.


The Michigan State Legislature is responsible for redistricting. The redrawn maps are proposed and passed as ordinary legislation. The Governor of Michigan may veto any redistricting plan.


House redistricting committee

Figure 1: This map shows the Michigan House Districts after the 2000 census.

The members of the House Redistricting committee were:

Republican Party Republicans (6)

  • Chair
  • Vice-Chair

Democratic Party Democrats (3)

  • Minority Vice-Chair

The House Committee regularly meets each Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. in room 521 of the House Office Building in Lansing.

In January 2011, a staffer for State Rep. Peter Lund told The State News that the House Redistricting and Elections committee had not held an official meeting. [1] This did not stop both sides from giving their opinions on redistricting. [1] Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, said: "We intend to handle redistricting in a responsible manner, like we are other things." [1] Katie Carey, a spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, told The State News that Democrats will aim for transparency in redistricting. [1] Democrats would create a website to gather public input along with holding public hearings according to Carey. [1]

The first meeting was held on February 22, 2011.[2] Legislators later announced they would continue accepting proposed maps for both state and Congressional divisions through May 23, 2011.[3]

Figure 2: This map shows the Michigan Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Senate redistricting committee

The members of the Senate Redistricting committee were:

Republican Party Republicans (6)

Democratic Party Democrats (3)

In Michigan, the legislature controls the redistricting process, while the Governor of Michigan may exercise a veto for any reason. There is no legally set initial or final deadline to complete maps. However, for 2011, those involved wanted to have maps passed into law with a gubernatorial signature by November 1st.

In 2011, both chambers of the Michigan General Assembly were controlled by substantial Republican majorities, more than two-to-one in the Senate. Legislative Republicans had a GOP ally in Governor Rick Snyder.

In 2011, redistricting work took cues from the guidelines established in the Congressional Redistricting Act, MCL 3.61 (PA 221 1996), and the Legislative Redistricting Act, (MCL 4.261). Both of these bills passed by the Michigan legislature in the 1990s using lessons learned from previous years when redistricting had become a Michigan Supreme Court issue.[4]

Both Acts set out such guides as:

  • a "least cost" principle, wherein municipalities smaller than the size of the average Congressional district should be incorporated within a Congressional seat
  • Congressional districts must be of equal size, with a 95% to 105% tolerance range
  • existing municipal and county boundaries should be respected as much as possible

Like nearly every state with legislative redistricting, some organizations pushed to turn the process over to a citizen-controlled committee. However, both Sen. Hune and Rep. Lund argued that the guidelines in place make the legislative process fair, a statement immediately parsed for partisan bias.[5][6]

Census results

Michigan lost a congressional seat in the 2010 Census. As a result, Michigan was reduced from 15 to 14 congressional districts[7]. Eight of ten major cities lost population; of those that did grow, none surpassed the 5 percent mark.

At the same time that Michigan lost population on the whole, the state's minority population as a percentage of the whole grew to 23.4 percent, up from 21.4 percent in 2000. That population also scattered geographically, particularly as minorities moved away from Detroit-proper into the suburbs.[8] Comparatively, Detroit was now smaller than before the advent of the American automotive industry and endured a more severe population exodus than New Orleans. Detroit lost enough population, including 25 percent of its minority voters, that it could now fit into a single Congressional seat.[9] Given that the two existing Detroit districts were minority-majority seats, controversy was expected in the runup to the process. Due in part to these trends, Michigan's Legislative Black Caucus hired an attorney and began preparing its own redistricting plan.[10]

In areas where minority populations increased, triple digit growth for both blacks and Hispanics was common. The number of black residents dramatically increased by 389 percent in Warren, 496 percent in Eastpointe, 260 percent in Melvindale, 80 percent in Kentwood, and 49 percent in Wyoming. Hispanic population increases posted similar numbers: 109 percent in Wyoming and 135 percent in Kentwood.

Although these areas would still have a prominent minority voice in the redistricting process, at least two other locales would be legally bound. Clyde Township in Allegan County and Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County are both bound by the VRA. Adding to that, Michigan is a rarity among VRA-compelled states in that her state statutes explicitly reference the VRA.

According to a March 2011 report in The Washington Post, Michigan was one of the top 10 states to watch in the redistricting process. The reporters ranked Michigan number 9 on the list. Florida was given the distinction of being the number 1 state to watch.[11]

Congressional maps

The Hill reported in a December 22, 2010 blog posting that long-time Michigan Congressmen John Dingell and Sander Levin could suffer redistricting fallout with the GOP controlling the process[7]. With Michigan losing one congressional seat came the prospect of one of the senior Democrats in Michigan's congressional delegation being redistricted out according to The Hill. The Hill also mentioned that Congressman Gary Peter's district could be eliminated due to redistricting[7].

Despite ongoing speculation as to how Michigan would collapse 15 seats to 14, the Washington Post felt safe in pegging Gary Peters as the "odd man out." Whether he saw a challenge from Martin "Marty" Knollenberg or had to primary Sander Levin, Peters would not have an easy path to re-election if he chose to remain in Congress, the Post suggested. Alternately, it could have sped up his timetable to seek statewide office.[12]


With the GOP enjoying a trifecta at the state level and a 9-6 advantage in Congress, realistic scenarios all revolved around precisely how Republicans would shore up their advantage. The 2010 midterms also gave them control of the state's Supreme Court, a possible sign the GOP could be more aggressive in drawing maps. The stated intention of at least 14 of 15 sitting Congressmen to seek re-election complicated the politics of the redistricting process.[13]

Predicted Democratic targets, as one U.S. House seat was cut, were Gary Peters and Sander Levin. Pairing those two could be the outcome and was an attractive idea for some Republicans, as Peters held the one seat Democrats managed to win from Republicans in 2008 and Levin was the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. Peters's district sat just north of Detroit, while Levin held a strongly Democratic district spanning Oakland and McComb counties.

Peters could also have been set up to run against Thaddeus McCotter or Dale Kildee, whose seat was centered around Flint. Keeping a seat for Peters would almost certainly have meant targeting John Dingell's seat, an easier idea before Dingell made clear his intention to run again.[14] Dingell, McCotter, Kildee, and Levin were all in their 80s in early 2011, and, while Levin could have likely won a primary against Peters if the two were thrown together, that could have likely ended the 53-year-old Peter's career for the sake of the aging Levin,[15] a possibility that sparked calls for Levin to make a graceful exit.[16]

There were rumors Peters might pursue a county executive position rather than get into a primary fight in 2012. Notably, state Representative Martin "Marty" Knollenberg, son of the legislator that Congressman Peters ousted in 2008 and, more importantly, a member of the Michigan House Redistricting Committee, had announced his interest in challenging Peter for the very seat he would help redraw.[17] Once Knollenberg confirmed his intention to run for Congress, the Michigan Democratic Party issued a statement condemning the conflict of interest.[18]

Also on the table was protecting vulnerable GOP freshmen, the upper peninsula's Dan Benishek and southern Michigan's Tim Walberg. Benishek replaced Bart Stupak and Walberg reclaimed in 2010 the seat he lost in 2008. Both could benefit from any added Republican voters, but the districts they bordered could not give up Republican voters without jeopardizing their own incumbents.

A competing interest lay in meeting the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, with two minority seats to consider. Neither John Conyers in the 14th District nor Hansen Clarke in the 13th District, both Democrats holding seats covering parts of Detroit, were considered likely to give up easily, and the VRA limited what could be done with the voters in those seats. At the end of April, committee members were advised that complying with the VRA might mean crossing historic Eight Mile in Detroit.[19]

Considering the demographics of each potential district, after complying with legal requirements to keep black voters, who trend Democratic, intact and after protecting vulnerable GOP incumbents, some speculated that the largest challenge for those running the redistricting process could have become the strategic placement of white Democrats.

John Dingell's 15th district and McCotter's 11th were both suggested as the areas that would be cut up to find Conyers' seat the minority votes it needed to be in balance again.[20]

Congressman Dingell plans 2012 re-election

Long-time U.S. Congressman John Dingell told The Detroit News in January 2011 that he already began fundraising for a 2012 re-election bid[7]. However, Dingell had not confirmed if he wanted to run for a 30th term[7]. Some speculation of Dingell's early announcement to raise money hinged on redistricting. With Republicans controlling the Governor's office, both houses of the Legislature, along with the Supreme Court, observers noted that a newly drawn district could benefit the GOP[7].

GOP Congressional map

Leaked in a near-final draft form ahead of the planned submission to the legislature, the May 2011 Republican plan for Congressional districts took aim at the 9th and 12th seats - Gary Peters and Sander Levin.[21]

Peters had only four years in the House and saw the re-election fight of his life in 2010 against a candidate perceived to be endorsed by the Tea Party. Levin represented a heavily unionized area of northern Detroit that skewed strongly Democratic compared to the rest of the state. Levin was also the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee. Collapsing the two seats into a newly drawn 9th would likely still mean Democrats would hold the seat, but one of the two men would be out of a job in January 2013.

Rumors as to whether Peters would bow to the more senior officer and seek another office[22] or planned to force a primary conflicted, with his office saying he intended to seek a third term.[23]

Elsewhere in the state, Battle Creek was moved from its place in the 7th district to the newly proposed 3rd,[24] something Democrats decried as a bid to shore up the 7th for Republican Tim Wahlberg.[25]

The tone of Great Lakes Democrats, only half a year removed from having the governor's chair and Congressional majority, was one of dismay and anger at the map Republicans presented. A June 2011 joint statement from the half dozen members of the Democratic Congressional delegation called the GOP plan "overtly partisan and disrespectful."[26]

Top Ten Ranking

According to a June 2011 report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," Michigan was home to one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking seventh on the list (after having ranked 9 in March). Illinois ranked first.[27]

Republicans propose Congressional plan

Michigan Republicans released their proposed redistricting plan on June 17, 2011, detailing possible changes to the state's Senate, House, and Congressional districts. In the proposed Congressional plan, Reps. Gary Peters (D) and Sander Levin (D) would have been paired together. Although Peters could have chose to challenge Levin, conventional wisdom suggested that victory would be unlikely against the 28-year incumbent. In addition, the new 9th District would be predominantly made up of Levin's existing district. Under the plan, most of Peter's old 9th district was divided between Representatives John Conyers (D), Thaddeus McCotter (R), and Mike Rogers (R). If Peters did choose to run, he could have moved under a mile to McCotter's new District 11 which contains much of his old district. Although McCotter's district has a more conservative bent, some commentators remained optimistic about Peters' prospects in a challenge.[28][29][30]

The plan drew sharp criticism from Democrats. Rep. Levin said the map was "indefensible" and made "a mockery of the right to a meaningful vote." Levin added that a few of the new districts resemble a scorpion, a camel, and a rabbit. However, House Speaker Jase Bolger's spokesman defended the plan, saying that the districts were necessary to balance competing redistricting goals. He observed that maps ought to preserve community lines and have equal population while remaining compact and contiguous. In addition, Michigan's maps must follow the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.[28] Overall, the plan was expected to strengthen freshman Republicans and win the GOP an additional Congressional seat. Amid this controversy, the map formally entered the redistricting process, so it could be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.[31]

 Michigan GOP Congressional Redistricting Proposal 

House approves redistricting proposal

On June 23, 2011, the Michigan House of Representatives approved the GOP's proposed Congressional redistricting map. The plan passed along party lines, 63-47.[32]

Senate approves redistricting proposal

On June 29, 2011, the Michigan State Senate voted 25-13 to send the Congressional map to Governor Rick Snyder (R). Legal challenges to the new maps were expected -- likely from the Michigan Democratic Party or Congressional Black Caucus. "We'll be talking with the congressional delegation about our options. We have at least an argument that this is an unconstitutional, racial gerrymander," said Democratic chairman Mark Brewer.[33]

Governor signs Congressional maps

On August 9, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed the state's Congressional redistricting plan, House Bill 4780.

DOJ pre-clears redistricting plans

Michigan's congressional and legislative redistricting maps were approved on January 24, 2012 by the U.S. Department of Justice. The decision did not directly affect the NAACP and Legislative Black Caucus lawsuit against the House of Representatives maps.[34]

Legislative maps

The rules for state legislative maps offered slightly more flexibility, as planners are permitted a ± 5 percent deviation, making the lower and upper bounds for the Senate 247,091 and 273,100, and as there were only half a dozen counties in Michigan that would have to be split between districts. It is possible to draw state level maps such that those six breaks represent the only breaks across the state.[35]

VRA concerns came into play at the state level when addressing Detroit's population loss. The heavily black city went into 2010 with five majority-minority districts. Detroit's home of Wayne County lost 240,000 residents, 230,000 of whom left Detroit. Overall, the county would have to drop from eight to seven Senate seats, but taking that seat away from Detroit could have attracted Justice Department scrutiny.

While the map-making was a process largely private to legislators, the Senate Redistricting Committee responded somewhat positively to a citizen request to see the map sooner than the formal unveiling to the full Senate. Committee Chair Joe Hune's answer was laconic; "Absolutely, we can consider that. We probably should."[36]

Democratic Senate map

Minority Democrats hosted a May 24, 2011 press conference to release their own proposed map for Michigan's 28 Senate seats.[37]

Mark Brewer, Chair of the state party, unveiled the map and officially submitted it to the Senate Redistricting Committee. He described it as a "politically" fair division that gave each party 15 safe districts and drew eight competitive seats. The Democratic redistricting plan, Brewer said, "...simply makes sense".[38]

An early center-right opinion of the map gave it little chance of succeeding, commenting, "[t]here is nothing terribly outrageous about this map, but it is a modest gerrymander and is probably about the best Democrats could do without massively violating the rules. Their strategy is not hard to understand. Since they have no control over the process, they will present a slightly slanted plan, claim it is "fair", and hope to guilt-trip Republicans (Snyder?) into compromising. It isn't terribly likely to succeed, though it has some nonzero chance".[39]

Republicans propose legislative plan

Michigan Republicans released their proposed redistricting plan on June 17, 2011, detailing possible changes to the state's Senate, House, and Congressional districts. The State House maps largely preserved the current GOP advantage. The Senate plan appeared to strengthen GOP incumbents, but did make some districts more competitive for Democrats in Saginaw and Kalamazoo counties. Both state legislative plans weakened the power of Detroit after a decade of sharp population decline for the city. The plans effectively removed one Senate and two House members from Wayne County. In addition, no Senate district would be entirely contained within Detroit proper. Detroit saw a population decline of 25 percent in the last decade. Michigan as a whole lost 0.6 percent of its population and forfeited one U.S. House seat.[40][41][42]

 Michigan GOP Legislative Redistricting Proposal 

Legislature approves legislative plan

On June 23, 2011, the Michigan State Senate passed the proposed legislative plan 29-8 with bipartisan support. Several Democrats signed on to the plan after the Democratic proposal for Detroit's State Senate seats was integrated into the maps. The House plan for Detroit was unaffected. The maps then proceeded to the Michigan House of Representatives where they were approved 65-42 with amendments. Final legislative approval came on June 29 when the Senate concurred with the House amendments. Opponents argued that Republicans rushed the redistricting process. However, Republicans contended that final plans needed to be approved by July 1, 2011 to allow sufficient time to resolve legal challenges.[43] The redistricting bill, Senate Bill 0498, can be found here.

 Michigan Senate Redistricting Compromise 

Governor signs legislative maps

On August 9, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed the state's legislative redistricting plan, Senate Bill 498.

Legal issues

Challenge of congressional plan likely

In August of 2011, a legal challenge to Michigan's new Congressional map seemed likely. Much of the controversy surrounded District 14, home to longtime Representative John Conyers (D). The plan would redraw Conyer's district to exclude 80 percent of his former territory, joining the remainder with Republican-leaning areas. The 14th Congressional District Democratic Organization issued a statement opposing the law, and U.S. Representatives Gary Peters (D) and Sander Levin (D) voiced support for a lawsuit.[44][45][46]

Black Caucus plans challenge to redistricting map

Michigan's Legislative Black Caucus announced plans to challenge the state's redistricting plans in October 2011, calling the plans discriminatory. The suit was filed in federal court in October.[47] Meanwhile, it seemed that Grosse Pointe Woods was moving away from its earlier interest in challenging the plan. The city's attorney determined that a lawsuit would be unlikely to succeed and that legal funds could be better spent elsewhere.[48]

Coalition challenges State House maps

A number of advocacy groups joined forces to challenge Michigan's redrawn State House districts. In a lawsuit filed on December 8, 2011, the groups argued that the new maps would result in a 50 percent reduction in the number of minority representatives by weakening minority districts and pairing incumbents. Much of the criticism was focused on the Detroit area. A spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder (R), named in the lawsuit, defended the plans calling them legal and fair. The groups challenging the plan included: the Michigan State Legislative Black Caucus, the NAACP, the United Auto Workers, and Latino Americans for Social and Economic Development.[49]

DOJ to investigate

Minority and labor groups challenging Michigan's State House districts received encouraging news in late 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to investigate Michigan's legislative redistricting efforts. The decision comes after a December 21, 2011 meeting with attorneys for the plaintiffs.[50]

Lawsuit dismissed

On March 23, 2012, a three-judge panel dismissed the challenge to Michigan's House redistricting plan. The challenge, brought by a group of labor and civil rights organizations, argued that the plan illegally diluted minority voting strength in the Detroit area.[51]

Local lawsuits

Warren City Council lawsuit

In May 2011, two candidates for an at-large seat in Warren challenged the validity of an initiative placed on the November ballot. The item, circulated as a petition, was officially an initiative to place the city's redistricting plan on the fall ballot. According to the plaintiffs, Eugene Sawyer and Dean Berry, it also improperly included language to reduce Warren's council from nine seats to seven and to make five of the seats into districts office, leaving a single pair of at-large positions.

Saying that people may not have realized they were signing in support of that plan, Sawyer and Berry, representing "Warren Citizens Guarding Government," asked for a restraining order to keep the initiative off the ballot. The current City Council had by then already tabled the redistricting plan.[52]

The two men argued that the proposed map of districts disproportionately favored the wealthier northern half of the city, and that the map reflected an effort by existing office holders to entrench their positions. The sitting mayor, Jim Fouts, countered that the initiative passed and was set for the fall election months earlier, questioning why anyone would let so much time pass before challenging the language of the petition.

The suit was filed on the eve of the deadline to announce a candidacy for any of the city's offices. By way of explanation, Berry said the group had hoped the Warren Council would hire attorneys to seek a court order on who should draw the new districts. Both men also admitted they signed the petition they challenged, claiming they were "hoodwinked" by the language. A representative of the Tea Party-affiliated group that circulated the measure said the effort was attempting to cut government costs and represented no effort to distribute power to certain groups.[53]

Oakland County lawsuit

Former Sen. Mike Bishop (R), County Commissioner David Potts (R), and residents Janice Daniels and Mary Kathryn Decuir filed a lawsuit on June 20, 2011 against the Oakland County Apportionment Commission. According to the plaintiffs, the commission deliberated for only 34 minutes before passing the proposal. In addition, the suit alleged that new districts were not sufficiently compact, divided communities of interest, reflected partisan motivations, and packed minorities into majority-minority districts.[54]

Oakland County maps upheld

On November 16, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the Oakland County Commission redistricting plan challenged by Republicans. The court found that the lines were legally permissible, meeting requirements for compactness, fair allocation of political power, and the protection of minority voting rights. At least one plaintiff, Potts, expressed an interest in appealing the decision.[55]

Democrats sue to block map

After local Republicans lost their legal challenge to Oakland County's redistricting maps, state GOP lawmakers passed a law stripping the bipartisan committee of its redistricting authority and giving the power to the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners. However, on January 4, 2012, Democrats sued to block the law, arguing that it violated the separation of powers. Republicans, on the other hand, defended the law as a cost-saving measure for the county.[56]

Advocacy groups

Michigan's Republican trifecta worried some observers; the perceived lack of suitable foil to partisan overreach was a source of anxiety. Adding to public concerns was redistricting's overlap with the regular legislative session, when the budget, in the words of a political scientist, "suck[ed] all the air out of the room. Everyone is focused on the budget, which allows the people who are working on the redistricting plan even more privacy."[57]

Draw the Line Midwest

On March 15, 2011, the Draw the Line Midwest campaign was announced. Billing itself as "the nation's first regional redistricting reform campaign organization," Draw the Line Midwest was made up of 25 reform organizations from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It was a collaboration between the Midwest Democracy Network and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

The groups said the campaign was a coordinated effort to depoliticize the redistricting process by pushing for transparency, public participation, and protection of minority rights. They planned to propose alternatives to legislative plans and setting up District Builder, free open-based software that allows anyone to draw the maps. The site was expected to be up in all states by April 2011.[58]

April 18th and 21st op-eds laid out the group's major wishes for redistricting reform:[59][60]

  • Publicly posted maps with time for public comment
  • Public hearings
  • Open mapmaking, rather the closed door sessions to prepare maps with the public seeing only finished proposals
  • Specific, written justifications for each proposed district

Michigan Redistricting Collaborative

Combining the Michigan chapters of the ACLU, AARP, and the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative went beyond suggesting steps to improve transparency and participation, opting to draft two bills and go shopping for sponsors.[61]

The two bills were separate for purposes of addressing state and Congressional redistricting, but they contained the same guidelines the MRC hoped the Assembly would adopt:

  • All data used in drawing maps would be on a public website, with capacity for people to comment
  • A minimum of four public hearings would be held on each proposal, with at least three outside Lansing. Each hearing would be broadcast live and all transcripts and testimony would be available online
  • At least 30 days before the vote, each map would be posted online with details about the make-up of each district and a public interest statement

As all maps would be passed through the legislature as bills, the ability of citizens to testify and to track the progress of each bill was guaranteed.

The idea resonated with the public but, as one editorial noted, its fate rested on how active citizens were willing to be in pushing the legislature to adopt the ideas[62]

Michigan Citizens' Redistricting Competition 2011

Sponsored by the Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration, the MCRC ran a contest from May 2, 2011 to May 23, 2011, inviting Michiganders to submit their own maps for redistricting. By the final day, 200 entries had been submitted.[63]

The legislature had agreed in advance to at least look at the top 20 entries, though there was no law to force them to consider any of those maps. Ultimately, 19 maps were submitted; 13 for the U.S. House, five for the Senate, and a single map for the state House.[64]

Michigan Citizens' Research Council

Michigan's Citizens' Research Council (CRC) outlined a series of recommended reforms to redistricting at both the state and federal level, including multiple Constitutional reforms.[65] After the state's Supreme Court ruled redistricting language in the state Constitution invalid, the legislature was left with a considerably free hand as they handled redrawing political maps.[66]

Adding any language to the Constitution would require legislative action or a citizen initiated ballot item; the CRC recommended the former, urging lawmakers to place language before voters in the 2012 elections.

Specifically, the CRC called for:

  • Recreating a redistricting commission
  • Limiting redistricting to once per decade
  • Describing the appropriate redistricting procedures and timeline
  • Increasing transparency and public engagement
  • Protecting electors' right to challenge redistricting plans
  • Minimizing population variance among districts
  • Ensuring contiguous single-member districts
  • Creating district boundaries that adhere to political boundaries
  • Protecting communities of interest

Reform legislation

Proposed bipartisan commission

Faced with a GOP trifecta in a redistricting year, Michigan Democrats raised the idea of handing control of the process over to a bipartisan commission with citizen input. In the Senate, Steven Bieda introduced two bills that would have accomplished that, both of which were referred to committee in late March 2011.[67] Under Bieda's plan:

  • A nine-member committee would be formed with four appointees from each major party and one appointee made by the Auditor General of Michigan, an officially nonpartisan position.
  • Commissioners would be unpaid and banned from accepting gifts
  • Lobbyists, as well as officials and employees of both the state and federal government, would not be eligible to serve
  • No Commissioner would be allowed to run for the House or Senate for four years after the effective date of the plan
  • At least six members would have to support a plan before it could be presented to the Governor
  • The Commission would have to maintain a website and allow a minimum of 72 hours for public comment on any map
  • The Commission would hold at least six meetings around the state

Around the same time, Republicans in two counties, Oakland and Wayne, sought to get permission to draw their own county commission seats. However, no serious plan actually proposed truly taking the privileges of redistricting away from elected politicians.[68]

One Democrat in the State House introduced a plan to increase transparency.[69] Rep. Barb Byrum's proposal called for a minimum of six public hearings after Census data is released and required online disclosure for communications involving redistricting from outside parties to House members and staff.[69] Also, new redistricting plans would require online disclosure.[69] The proposal was defeated in the House by a 63-45 vote on January 27, 2011.[70]

Townsend legislation

In late May 2011, Democrat Jim Townsend, a member of the House, introduced legislation calling for a nine member redistricting commission to take the process out of partisan hands. Townsend's commission would have been explicitly subject to both the Open Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Its members would have been forbidden to accept any money from PACs and lobbyists, as well as from businesses, nonprofits, or unions - effectively meaning no current office holder or candidate would be eligible.

The plan called for the Auditor General's office to accept applications and choose five citizens from the qualified submissions. The remaining four members would have been legislative appointees, with the Majority and Minority leaders of both chambers each having a single pick. No elected officer holder, lobbyist, state contractor, employee of a political party, or employee of a group prohibited from donating to commission members would have been eligible for the panel.[71]


Michigan's 2011 deadline was set at November 1, 2011. Hearings began the week of Monday, April 11, 2011.[72] The initial hearing was held in Lansing[73] and lawmakers were briefed by a demographer on Tuesday, the 11th of April.[74]

Demographer Ken Darga advised the legislature that Detroit's expected challenge to the 2010 Census, even if successful, would not be resolved in time to have any effect on legislative boundaries.[75]


Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[76]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 9.92%
State Senate Districts 9.92%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

2010 Partisan Registration by District

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010[77]
Congressional District Republicans Democrats Unaffiliated District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Upper Peninsulsa)
1 (Lake Michigan Shore)
3 (Barry, Ionia Counties)
4 (Traverse City, Mount Pleasant)
5 (Southern Shore of Saginaw Bay)
6 (Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo)
7 (Battle Creek)
8 (Lansing)
9 (Oakland County)
10 (The Thumb)
11 (Wayne and Oakland Counties)
12 (Detroit's inner suburbs)
13 (Wayne County, East Detroit)
14 (Northwest Detroit, Downriver suburbs)
15 (Southwest Detroit, Dearborn Heights)
State Totals 7,276,237 8 D, 7 R 6 D, 9 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Michigan Constitution outlined procedures in Article IV. However, provisions in the Article were struck down by the courts. Authority for the Legislature to redistrict comes from Sections 3.61-64 and 4.261-263 of the Michigan Statutes control.[78]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The State News "Census results will lead to redrawn state district lines" 26 Jan. 2011
  2. Michigan Legislature Meeting Schedule
  3. The Greenfield Reporter, "Michigan House panel continues redistricting hearings, will accept plans into next month", April 26, 2011
  4. Michigan Redistricting Resource Institute, "Michigan Redistricting Statutes", accessed February 25, 2011
  5. Livingston Daily "Hune: Redistricting is fair process," February 4, 2011
  6. Livingston Daily, "Don't ignore reality with redistricting", February 17, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 The Hill "Longtime Dem Reps. Levin and Dingell could face redistricting danger" 22 Dec. 2010
  8. The Detroit News, "Black caucus preps for Michigan redistricting", March 25, 2011
  9. Detroit Free Press "Detroit likely to lose some clout after redistricting," March 23, 2011
  10., "Michigan's black caucus eyes redistricting process", March 25, 2011
  11. Washington Post "The top 10 states to watch in redistricting," March 18, 2011
  12. Washington Post "The most likely redistricting victims," April 15, 2011
  13. Beaumont Enterprise, "AP survey: 14 Mich. US House members to run again", April 14, 2011
  14. Washington Post "Maxed out in Michigan," March 30, 2011
  15. Dome Magazine, "The Redistricting Wars", May 13, 2011
  16. Michigan Radio, "Redistricting Dilemma", May 16, 2011
  17. The Morning Sun, "NEW: ERIC BAERREN: Those who stand to gain draw the districts", March 31, 2011
  18. Detroit News, "MDP knocks Knollenberg on redistricting", April 2, 2011
  19. Detroit Free Press, "New district lines could cross over 8 Mile", April 26, 2011
  20. Press & Guide, "Population shifts could see change in political boundaries", March 29, 2011
  21. Detroit News, "GOP draft plan targets Peters, Levin", May 28, 2011
  22., "May the best Dem win? State GOP redistricting plan targets Reps. Sander Levin, Gary Peters", May 31, 2011
  23. The Hill "Michigan redistricting plan targets suburban Detroit Dems," May 28, 2011
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