Thursday, May 26, 2011

Michigan Redistricting: Analysis of Democrats State Senate Plan

The Michigan Democrat Party has released its proposed redistricting plan for the Michigan state senate. I previously released two possible maps and discussed the standards that such maps must follow.

Michigan Redistricting: Two Possible State Senate Maps

Here is the map.

Let’s consider their press release.
Michigan Democrats Introduce State Senate Redistricting Map
Map is Fair, Representative, and Avoids Partisan Gerrymandering

LANSING - Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer announced today that he has filed a redistricting plan with the State Senate Committee on Redistricting that would ensure voters are fairly represented in Lansing by creating sensible and competitive districts. The Committee had invited the public to submit maps for consideration and Brewer stated that this map deserved their attention.

“Redistricting should be politically fair and avoid partisan gerrymandering when drawing district boundaries,” said Brewer. “The map we’ve submitted is politically fair with 15 Republican, 15 Democratic, and eight swing districts, doesn’t create a single district boundary that would split a city or township in two, and only splits six counties. In short, it’s a map that simply makes sense.”
They don’t say which districts they consider which. I will rate them myself below. It is technically true that “doesn’t create a single district boundary that would split a city … in two”, but the release doesn’t mention that it splits Detroit in five pieces. It is false to say that “doesn’t create a single district boundary that would split a … township in two” since Browntown township in Wayne County is split between districts 1 and 3.

It is also false that the map “only splits six counties”, since it clearly splits seven (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham), including a double split of Genesee. In comparison, my maps both split only six counties. One has a double break in Genesee, the other does not.
Brewer added that the map also follows the requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act by creating six “majority-minority” districts, five of which would be based in Detroit and one in Oakland County due to the growth of the African-American community through southeast Michigan.
Brewer is wrong about what the Voting Rights Act requires. This article is the best guide to the VRA that I could find.

(Before you flip out, yes I realize that the article comes from Daily Kos. It appears that the author is playing it straight. Of course, second opinions from the legal-minded commenters here are welcome.)

The VRA may require black-majority districts, but it almost certainly does not require “majority-minority” districts, where all the racial minorities are grouped together to form a majority. The second and third standards from Thornburg v. Gingles are definitely not satisfied. While there is nothing prohibiting a majority-minority district in Oakland, it is definitely not required. It is not even clear that Michigan is required to maintain five black-majority districts, given the massive population loss in Detroit. This would be a much closer call, however.
“This is Governor Snyder’s chance to show that he’s willing to put the interests of Michigan’s voters ahead of the interests of his own political party,” added Brewer. “If he is willing to dismiss this fair redistricting plan and instead sign one that is simply a partisan Republican gerrymander, he will send a very clear message to the people of Michigan; that he is just another Lansing politician beholden to special interests.”

There 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 (a similar gambit seems to have worked for Republicans in Arkansas).

What is gerrymandered?
  • Mt. Morris is included in the Saginaw-based district. Mt. Morris is the second most democrat area of Genesee, after Flint. This is not necessary and serves only to create a safe democrat district.
  • Ypsilanti area is included in a district with SW Oakland.
  • The minority-majority district in Oakland.
  • Cutting Detroit into strips. This is probably necessary due to the VRA, but it is nonetheless gerrymandering.
Let’s rate the districts.

1. Safe D [Detroit shoreline] Coleman Young
2. Safe D [northern Detroit, Grosse Pointes] Bert Johnson
3. Safe D [central Detroit, Lincoln Park, Southgate] Virgil Smith
4. Safe D [central Detroit, Dearborn] Morris Hood
5. Safe D [western Detroit, Redford, Dearborn Heights] Tupak Hunter (TL)
6. Safe D [SW Wayne] Hoon-Yung Hopgood, Patrick Colbeck
7. Tossup [Westland, Livonia, Plymouth, Northville] Glenn Andersen (TL)
8. Safe D [southern Macomb County] Steven Bieda
9. Lean R [Clinton, Macomb, Chesterfield, Harrison] Jack Brandenburg
10. Safe R [N Macomb County, Sterling Heights] Tory Rocca
11. Safe R [St. Clair, Lapeer] Phil Pavlov
12. Safe R [N Oakland County] Jim Marleau
13. Safe D [Troy, Royal Oak, Ferndale] John Pappageorge (TL)
14. Safe D [Southfield, Pontiac, Bloomfield, Oak Park] Vincent Gregory
15. Lean D [Farmington, West Bloomfield, Waterford, Spring Lake] Mike Kowall
16. Tossup [SW Oakland, Ypsilanti] Open
17. Tossup [Monroe, Lenawee] Randy Richardville (TL)
18. Safe D [Washtenaw County] Rebekah Warren
19. Lean R [Calhoun, Eaton, S Ingham] Mike Nofs, Rick Jones
20. Tossup [Kalamazoo County] Open
21. Safe R [Hillsdale, Branch, Jackson] Bruce Caswell
22. Safe R [Berrien, Cass, St. Jospeh] John Proos
23. Safe D [Ingham County] Gretchen Whitmer (TL)
24. Safe R [Livingston, Shiawassee] Joe Hune
25. Safe R [Allegan, VanBuren, S Kent] Tonya Schuitmaker
26. Safe D [Flint, western Genesee County] John Gleason (TL)
27. Safe R [Clinton, Ionia, Montcalm, Barry] Judy Emmons
28. Safe R [Kent County outside Grand Rapids] Mark Jansen (TL), Dave Hildenbrand
29. Tossup [Grand Rapids, Walker] Open
30. Safe R [Ottawa County] Arlan Meekhof
31. Tossup [the Thumb, E Genesee] Mike Green, David Robertson
32. Safe D [Saginaw, Mt. Morris] Roger Khan (TL)
33. Safe R [Midland, Isabella, Gratiot, Mecosta, Oscela] John Moolenaar, Darwin Booher
34. Tossup [Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Manistee] Geoff Hansen
35. Safe R [Grand Traverse area] Howard Walker
36. Lean D [NE Lower Peninsula, Bay] Open
37. Safe R [N Lower Peninsula, E Upper Peninsula] Open
38. Tossup [Upper Peninsula excluding Mackinac, Chippewa] Tom Casperson

Here is a summary of the ratings.

Rating: SR/LR/TU/LD/SD
Old……. 13 / 6 / 7 / 1 / 11
New…… 13 / 2 / 8 / 2 / 13

Some parts of the map are actually the same as what I drew. These areas are pretty much forced by the need to avoid breaks. Interestingly, five of the eight tossup districts would have no incumbent and another would pit two Republicans against each other. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

In any case, this map is not likely to be adopted.

Previous articles on Michigan redistricting:
Michigan Congressional Redistricting: Two Possible Maps
Michigan Redistricting: Two Possible State Senate Maps
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part I: Wayne County
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part II: Oakland and Genesee
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part III: Macomb and the Thumb
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part IV: The Rest of the State

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