New Bill Would Stop Gerrymandering of County Commission Seats
LANSING — On Tuesday, state Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) introduced a plan to end partisan gerrymandering at the county commission level following the approval of Proposal 2. Last month, Michigan voters approved a ballot proposal that creates an independent redistricting commission to draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the state House of Representatives. However, the ballot initiative did not alter the process for reapportionment of county commission districts since that process is laid out in state statute instead of the Michigan Constitution.
This November, Michiganders made it clear that they want an end to gerrymandering in our state," Rep. LaGrand said. "As I've talked with voters, they are stunned to learn that partisan redistricting will continue on for county commission districts. The passage of Proposal 2 proves Michiganders want to unrig the rules and create a redistricting system that is fair, impartial, and transparent. It is time to end gerrymandering in Michigan once and for all by bringing these citizen-initiated reforms down ballot.”
Currently, County Commission districts are drawn by five partisan officials – a County Prosecutor, Treasurer and Clerk who are all elected partisans, as well as the county chairs of the two parties receiving the highest vote totals in the county. Rep. LaGrand's bill would designate apportionment authority to a nonpartisan panel of district and circuit court judges selected by lottery. After the census, this panel would draw new districts based on the standards existing in current statute.
“In Kent County, we have seen commission districts in Grand Rapids and Wyoming drawn into ridiculous shapes,” said Phil Skaggs, a Kent County Commissioner. “Kent County Republicans did this to dilute the influence of Democratic voters and keep the commission in Republican hands. This bill would help the Commission and others like it reflect the makeup of the county more accurately.”