Revelations that Michigan Republicans and their cadre of consultants engaged in blatant gerrymandering when drawing the state’s current congressional district map have become national news.
The stories circulating across the country mostly focus on private emails that demonstrate hyper-partisan attitudes among the GOP in 2011 while drawing zig-zagging lines that continue to favor Republican candidates.
In one email, a Republican aide said a Macomb County district is shaped like “it’s giving the finger to (incumbent Democratic Congressman) Sandy Levin. I love it.” Another email came from a GOP staffer who was delighted that the map would “cram ALL of the Dem garbage” into four southeast Michigan congressional districts.
Bridge Magazine broke the story on Wednesday and the details of gerrymander motives in Michigan have spread from coast to coast. Squiggly district boundaries had already earned Michigan the label as one of the four most-gerrymandered states in the nation. But the emails lifted the curtain on a secretive process designed to impose hardball politics that last for a decade.
News outlets that have reported on the email revelations include the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Hill, New York Magazine, Daily Kos, MSNBC and the Political Wire. The gerrymandering schemes have also caught the attention of the Reddit online forum, YouTube and Twitter, as well as commentary by numerous blogs.
So far, conservative press organizations outside of Michigan have ignored the story.
The emails are among evidence introduced in a League of Women Voters federal lawsuit alleging state congressional districts, plus the 148 districts for the state House and Senate, were drawn in such a partisan, gerrymandered manner that they violate the U.S. Constitution.
Perhaps the most damning email messages uncovered by the lawsuit were those written by Bob LaBrant, a former political guru at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and now a GOP political consultant.
Bridge reported that a LaBrant email which surfaced in the court documents shows the extent to which GOP strategists privately allowed then-Congressman Dave Camp, a mid-Michigan Republican, to choose the lines that would ensure his new district would be safe for his re-election. And the overall district boundaries would guarantee that Republicans control most of Michigan’s congressional seats.
“We will accommodate whatever Dave wants in his district,” wrote LaBrant in May 2011. “We’ve spent a lot of time providing options to ensure we (Republicans) have a solid 9-5 delegation in 2012 and beyond.”
The result was a Camp district that was 150 miles long and featured an odd, little curly-cue to include the area of Frankenmuth, which is heavily dominated by Republican voters.
As a result, Camp continued to win re-election every two years until he chose to retire.