Three people — including an Oakland County commissioner — have filed a legal challenge against new county Board of Commissioners district lines as they were drawn by the county’s Reapportionment Commission and approved by that panel last month.
The suit, filed by the law firm of Clark Hill on behalf of Commissioner David Potts (R-Birmingham), Mary Kathryn Decuir, and Janice Daniels, was filed late Monday, June 20.
The Oakland County Republican Party is financially backing the lawsuit against the adopted district lines, said Party Chairman Jim Thienel yesterday, Tuesday, June 21.
Anyone who wanted to contend the legality of the adopted district lines — which were approved on May 20 in a party line vote, with Democratic Party Chairman Frank Houston and Democratic Treasurer Andy Meisner and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper voting in favor of the new map — had a 30-day window to do so.
“I’m very curious to see what the basis of the claim is,” Houston said, adding that he plans on scheduling a meeting of the Reapportionment Commission for some point in the next week to discuss how the county will defend against the challenge. “Prosecutor Cooper’s map is well within the law. It keeps communities together.”
The Republicans on the five-member reapportionment panel — Clerk/Register of Deeds Bill Bullard, Jr. and Thienel — had said in the past that the map was “gerrymandered” and “political” in nature.
During a conference call with reporters yesterday, legal counsel stated that a decision on the challenge by the Michigan Court of Appeals is expected by July 6.
The suit alleges that the district map is rife with “an unnecessarily high number of non-compact districts, primarily in the central and southeast portions of the map,” in violation of state law.
Additionally, Republicans argue that the map was drawn to give Democrats a political advantage and “was arrived at through a process riddled with evidence that political considerations played a prominent role in the plan’s adoption.”
Finally, the challenge asserts that the apportionment plan — while increasing from three to four the number of districts where minority populations make up the majority of the district — actually “dilutes the overall voting strength” of the county’s African-American population, particularly because, according to the suit, none of the districts in the approved map have more than a 52.3 percent African-American population, whereas the current district lines have one district with as high as a 72 percent African-American population.
Daniels said that the map is “clearly written by Democrats to help Democrats. One look at the districts shows they are not square and they are not compact.”
“I have a major concern about the new map, the ability of African-Americans to select a representative of our community,” Decuir said during the conference call. “I live in the Southfield area and my districts and the area have been split up to create a minority district, but it is weak. Only 51 percent (of the population being African-American) is weak. Any population change in my district could further hurt the American-American vote. That was why I am very concerned about this.”
Potts, calling the adopted map “clearly partisan,” said the districts were drawn in strange shapes.
“If you look at districts 11, 10 and 21, the look like horseshoes wandering all over the map.”
If the legal challenge is thrown out of court, the following is how the lakes area districts will be carved up.
• The 2nd District will represent the northern half of Milford — including Milford Village — and Highland Township (48,365 residents).
• The 4th District will represent the northern reaches of Waterford (49,939 residents).
• The 5th District will represent the southern portion of Waterford (48,529 residents).
• The 6th District will represent the entirety of White Lake (49,449 residents).
• The 7th District will represent Commerce, Wolverine Lake and Walled Lake (47,171 residents).
• The 8th District will represent the southern portion of Milford Township (48,225 residents).
• The 9th District will represent Wixom (46,339 residents).
• The 10th District will represent Orchard Lake (47,488 residents).
• The 11th District will represent the middle of Waterford running from east to west (49,732 residents).
• The 15th District will stretch up into the southern portion of West Bloomfield (47,962 residents).
• The 16th District will represent a portion of eastern West Bloomfield Township (48,350 residents).
• The 17th District will cover the vast majority of West Bloomfield (49,933 residents).