As we say goodbye to Michigan’s rigged election process, thanks to the overwhelming voter support for Proposal 2 on the November ballot, a deep dive into the Nov. 6 midterm election results shows that Michigan ranked among the worst states for partisan gerrymandering and, within the state, Macomb County may have served as the epicenter of unfair election results.
Bridge Magazine reports that the midterm voting outcomes from earlier this month reinforce the view that Michigan voters can’t get a fair shake even in a “Blue Wave” election with huge turnouts that favor the Democrats.
Bridge found that GOP candidates for the state Legislature received less than 50 percent of total votes statewide, but the party still maintained a 58-52 advantage in the House, and 22-16 majority in the Senate — even in a campaign when Democratic candidates won for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and several other statewide offices.
In Macomb, the most important county in the state due to its maverick swings back and forth between the two parties, the overall Dem success of 2018 was nonexistent in down-ballot elections due to the squiggly lines drawn by the GOP to maximum advantage.
The nationally publicized 2016 Donald Trump win in Macomb – a 48,000-vote advantage for the Republicans – was erased by a 2018 win for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, who carried Macomb by a 50-47 percent margin.
Yet, none of Macomb’s legislative seats changed parties as the Republicans kept a 2-1 advantage in the Senate and a 5-5 split in the House.
How can that be? Well, the carving up of Macomb’s political territories will certainly look different in 2021 when the new independent redistricting commission mandated by Proposal 2 takes control.
One last attempt at squiggly lines to carry the day
Meanwhile, Mike Wilkinson, the Bridge data guru, points to the election outcome in the 10th State Senate District (Sterling Heights, most of Clinton Township and all of Macomb Township) as a prime example of gerrymandering shenanigans that prevailed as majority-party lawmakers drew maps behind closed doors to maximize their control in the Legislature. In the past, Democrats engaged in this game playing; more recently, Republicans have perfected this tit-for-tat.
Sterling Heights serves as a provocative statewide example of gerrymandering at its worst. First, few Michiganders realize that Sterling Heights is the fourth-largest city in Michigan. It also serves as an up-for-grabs Purple city within the state’s ultimate bellwether county.
In the 10th State Senate District, Republican Mike MacDonald, a political newcomer with no government experience, survived a 21-point swing overall toward Democrats and held on to beat Democratic state Rep. Henry Yanez by 4.6 percentage points, about 5,100 votes, in the 10th.
MacDonald, considered an underdog even within Republican circles, prevailed because he carried Macomb Township by 6,145 votes, while losing the rest of the district by a net-outcome of nearly 1,000 votes.
Sterling Heights served as Exhibit 1
The city of Sterling Heights favored Whitmer for governor by a narrow margin yet the zig-zag legislative boundaries gave the GOP one of the city’s two House districts and its lone Senate district. The city represents a slight majority of the overall 10th Senate District territory but the 2011 GOP redistricting process switched Roseville, a solid Dem city with a growing minority population, for Macomb Township, a heavily Republican area dominated by upscale subdivisions populated by white, white-collar voters.
Jamie Roe, a Republican operative who played a role in the last round of redistricting, claimed in an interview with Bridge that exchanging Roseville for Macomb Township was a swap designed to keep the 10th District culturally equivalent.
Of course, Roe has received national press scrutiny for months due to emails unveiled in a federal court case that claims Michigan’s 2011 redistricting process was unconstitutionally dominated by Republican attempts to retain or enhance political power.
The chief of staff to former congresswoman Candice Miller, Roe wrote in one infamous email that the shape of a redrawn 9th Congressional District boundary line was “perfect” because it “looks like it’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” the longtime Democratic incumbent at the time.
Thankfully, the good-government proposal created and advanced by the grassroots group known as Voters Not Politicians offers an unbreakable, transparent approach toward the redistricting process that will begin after the 2020 U.S. Census.
Within a mandated process of numerous public hearings, drawing the new maps will be relegated to a citizens commission consisting of randomly chosen members — four Republican voters, four Democrats and five independents.
The biggest change is this: the 13 members of the commission will be forced to engage in collaboration and compromise as the majority vote on the final district maps will require support from at least two Republicans, two Democrats and two independents.