Saturday, February 25, 2012

Michigan Redistricting: Court of Appeals

The Michigan legislature recently passed a redistricting plan for the Court of Appeals. This court is below the Michigan Supreme Court. It consists of 28 judges (2 currently vacant), which may soon be reduced to 24 under a bill to reduce the number of judges passed in Lansing. The court is split into four districts based in Detroit, Troy, Lansing, and Grand Rapids.

Here is the new district map.

This is the old map.

The Court of Appeals is quite a different problem from usual redistricting plans. Incumbents have a huge advantage and are almost always reelected uncontested. This is because non-incumbents must collect a huge number of signatures (5000, I think), while incumbents can run for reelection simply by filing an affidavit. Furthermore, incumbents are listed as judges on the ballot, giving an additional advantage. Hence the only contested races are for the occasional open seat.

While the court is officially nonpartisan, conservatives have a significant advantage on the Court of Appeals due to the long tenure (1990-2002) of Governor John Engler, who appointed many of the judges to fill vacancies. Hence the goal is to draw four districts that aren't heavily dem, account for population changes, and if possible keep current incumbents in their districts.

District 1: (Detroit) [Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Branch, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo] Given the population loss in Detroit, this district needed to add people. It drops Calhoun and adds Branch, St. Joseph, and Kalamazoo. (Now I'm in a district with Detroit. Boo!)

District 2: (Troy) [Macomb, Oakland, Genesee] This district drops Schiawasee due to strong population growth in central Macomb County.

District 3: (Grand Rapids) [West Michigan, Washtenaw] Adds Mason, Oceana, and Montcalm from 4 and Calhoun from 1. Loses Branch, St. Joseph, and Kalamazoo to 1. Washtenaw is kept in the most Republican district, as putting in with Wayne might be enough to consistently elect democrats.

District 4: (Lansing) [Northern Michigan, Ingham, Livingston] Adds Schiawasee from 2, loses Mason, Oceana, and Montcalm to 3.

Overall, it appears to be a reasonable map.

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