The waters are far from calm in the Oakland County redistricting process now that Republicans and Democrats have each unveiled their proposed district maps for the county Board of Commissioners.
Approval of new district boundaries is expected at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Friday, April 13, now that the 25-member board’s Oversight Committee has recommended approval of the GOP’s proposed district lines.
Serving on the Oversight Committee are Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Gingell (R-Lake Orion) and Commissioners Shelley Taub (R-Orchard Lake), Jeff Matis (R-Rochester), and Dave Woodward (D-Royal Oak).
Democrats were quick to fire back at the proposed lines Republicans drew, calling them “gerrymandered and illegal” — much as Republicans did when Democrats on the five-member Oakland County Reapportionment Commission approved in a 3-2 vote their proposed district lines last May.
“Oakland County Republicans seem intent on adopting a gerrymandered and illegal plan for one reason — ensure another decade of Republican dominance in Oakland County,” said Woodward, who proposed the Democrats’ district lines this time around. “My Republican colleagues are recommending approval of a redistricting plan that is clearly in violation of state law, which directs us to choose the strongest plan.”
Democrats said their plan has fewer cases of dividing communities into multiple district, features a lower population deviation, and more closely follows the federal Voting Rights Act.
“I think the map that has been adopted (by the Oversight Committee) is compact, it has the appropriate amount of minority-majority districts, and it is within the deviation allowed in the guidelines of drawing a map,” Gingell said. “Outside of that, the comments that are coming out seem to be very politically-motivated.”
The new effort to redraw the county board’s district lines — which happens every 10 years following the release of U.S. Census data — is prompted by the state Supreme Court’s upholding the constitutionality of Public Act (PA) 280 of 2011, which gave the county Board of Commissioners, which is controlled by Republicans, authority over that process.
A five-member panel controlled by Democrats — county Treasurer Andy Meisner, county Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, and county Democratic Party Chairman Frank Houston — approved new district lines in May 2011, much to the chagrin of county Republicans, who had up until then held a majority of seats on that state-mandated panel.
After a series of court challenges — including one on the constitutionality of the Democrats’ approved district lines, and Democrats’ lawsuit over the legality of PA 280 — the end result is that county commissioners are drawing the districts.
Democrats have not decided whether they will file a federal suit over PA 280, which was approved by the state Legislature late last year and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder following objections from Houston and other Democrats that the law is merely an effort to keep Oakland County in Republican control, rather than a genuine effort to save the county $250,000 a year in commissioner salaries and benefits by reducing the county board from 25 to no more than 21 commissioners, as Republicans have argued since the enacting legislation was introduced.
The Republicans’ new district map proposal divides up west Oakland County into the following districts, each with the total population as indicated in parenthesis:
• District 2: Highland Township (56,230);
• District 4: A portion of Waterford Township (57,227);
• District 5: Orchard Lake, and portions of West Bloomfield and Waterford townships (58,079);
• District 6: White Lake and a portion of Waterford (59,278);
• District 7: Walled Lake, Wolverine Lake, and portions of Commerce and West Bloomfield (59,066);
• District 8: Milford, Wixom, and a portion of Commerce (55,106);
• District 13: Portion of West Bloomfield (56,960);
The Democrats’ map would divvy the lakes area into the following county board districts:
• District 2: Highland and a portion of White Lake (58,064);
• District 5: A portion of Waterford (57,065);
• District 6: Walled Lake (55,649);
• District 11: Portions of White Lake and Waterford (59,067);
• District 12: A portion of West Bloomfield (57,910);
• District 13: Milford, Wolverine Lake, and a portion of Commerce Township (55,908);
• District 14: Wixom (58,365); and
• District 15: Orchard Lake, a portion of West Bloomfield (57,601).
The Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the Republicans’ proposed map on Friday, at a meeting that begins at 9 a.m. in the Board of Commissioners Auditorium at 1200 N. Telegraph Road in Pontiac.