Redistricting Committee Misses the Mark, Disenfranchises Voters

Berrien GOP: Redistricting Committee Misses the Mark, Disenfranchises Voters 
 
The Berrien County Republican Party today expressed their disappointment with proposed electoral maps recently released by the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. Primarily, they argue it disenfranchises voters in Berrien County, as well as in other parts of the state. 
 
“Berrien County was not just carved up, it was gutted,” said Dennis Grosse, Chair of the Berrien County Republican Party. “As drawn, it is entirely possible for some Berrien County residents to not have a single representative actually from Berrien County.” 
 
The final maps split Berrien County into two Congressional seats, two state Senate Seats, and three state House seats. “The Commission did not follow traditional municipal boundaries and, in doing so, they cut up current voting precincts and even split sides of the street into different legislative districts,” Grosse said. “Not only will it become more difficult to learn who your representatives are, it’ll become more difficult to access and get to know them.” 
 
As an example, Grosse pointed to the new Congressional District boundaries proposed by the Commission. “Two-thirds of our county was put into the new 5th Congressional District which stretches ten counties along the border all the way to Monroe County. The other part of our county is in the 4th Congressional District which meanders North towards Holland,” Grosse said. “If you live on Ridge Road in Lincoln Township, your house could be in the 4th Congressional and your mailbox could be in the 5th – a district that borders Toledo, Ohio.” 
 
Grosse said the maps will cause chaos for local clerks who will have multiple districts on individual streets.  “In the Lincoln Township example, folks who live on the side of the street of 
Media Contact: Dennis Grosse 269-425-7506 
Tosi’s restaurant would be in a different congressional district than people on the other side of the street – what will that ballot look like?” he asked. 
 
Grosse also pointed to the lack of a common definition around “communities of interest,” the term used by the commission as rationale to draw certain areas together. “This is how we ended up with a state House District that now caterpillars up the lakeshore and a state Senate District that changed from three contiguous border counties to parts of seven different counties,” Grosse said. “Not a single member of this commission was from Southwest Michigan and the lack of understanding shows.” 
 
Grosse, however, said the most glaring issue with the proposed maps was the Commission’s disenfranchisement of African American voters in the Detroit area. Grosse said he agreed with the Executive Director of the Michigan Civil Rights Department who said the proposed maps dilute the number of majority-minority districts and strip the ability for a minority voter to elect legislative representatives who reflect their community. 
 
“It’s hard to believe that in 2022 we would have such a flagrant violation of the federal Voting Rights Act,” Grosse said. “Then again, a report from the Commission’s consultant, Lisa Handley, - who was hired to advise the panel – mistakenly listed Michigan Senate Black Caucus Chair Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit) as being white.” 
 
Detroit lawmakers have already filed suit alleging the new congressional and state legislative districts drawn by the commission would diminish Black Detroiters' political power in violation of federal voting rights requirements. With the maps headed to court, this could lead to a further delay for candidate announcements as well as for public understanding of the new districts. 
 
“It is unfortunate this will have to be untangled by the courts,” Grosse said. “A little bit of common sense could have gone a long way.”