In The Beginning

The very first time Michigan experienced 'Gerrymandering'

There was Chaos.

The 1961 Michigan Con-Con created a new way of apportioning districts.

Though it had not done away with geographical consideration that had existed for most of the 20th century to that point, it created the commission under which Four Republicans, and Four Democrats, and Four (if any 3rd party received 25% of the vote) 3rd party commissioners.  And as expected, the first commission was deadlocked.

The apportionment plan went before the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Republican plan was ruled as being as close to the apportionment rules as either plans, and ordered to be in effect.  In the meantime, the US Supreme Court applied a 1962 case (Baker V. Carr) which opined the authority over apportionment matters to Reynolds v. Simms, establishing the ‘one person, one vote’ apportionment standard.

This changed everything.

Instead of the initially approved plan of apportionment, the Republican plan was set aside, and the Democrat plan was then ordered to be adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court. The Austin-Kleiner apportionment plan would become the first example of gerrymandering in Michigan, as it followed population more closely, looked more like the fabled salamander, and split geographical boundaries more freely.

Republicans threw a fit.  The Austin-Kleiner apportionment plan was unacceptable by the Republican members of the apportionment commission because it included districts that were not necessarily compact and contiguous.  It also split some of the counties, townships, and municipalities to meet the ‘one person one vote’ spirit of the legislative districts.

They filed suit. The Republicans felt the districts favored Democrats. In the subsequent litigation, BADGLEY v. SECRETARY OF STATE, then Secretary of State Hare even called the Republicans Naive.

“Petitioners’ charge of political gerrymander approaches naivete when it is considered that under Constitutional mandate the apportionment commission must be composed of four Democrats and four Republicans. Const 1963, art 4, § 6. It being constitutionally required that the commission be selected by the political parties, it would seem implicit that partisan political considerations enter into any product of the commission. If petitioners are on *422 sound ground in contending that an unlawful partisan gerrymander is in the Austin-Kleiner plan, then perhaps the apportionment commission itself must fall as being a built-in gerrymandering device.”

Following remand by the Michigan Supreme Court, the apportionment commission deadlocked along party lines again.

The Democrat commissioners continued to insist on the Austin-Kleiner plan. The four Republican commissioners submitted their own alternative plan. It went back and forth: And the Supreme Court’s earlier landmark decision weighed out.

The next year, Republican attorney Max Badgley of Jackson and several other citizens petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court to review the Austin-Kleiner plan.  They argued that the Austin-Kleiner plan, as adopted in 1964, was gerrymandered to unfairly maximize the number of Democratic legislative districts.  A majority of the Michigan Supreme Court justices agreed, sending the matter of redistricting back to the apportionment commission and directing the commission to complete a new redistricting plan within a set time.  Writing separately, Justice Theodore Souris opined that nearly all the legislative-apportionment provisions of the new Michigan Constitution—including the provision establishing the bipartisan apportionment commission—were void in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Reynolds.  Although the other members of the Court did not share Justice Souris’s opinion at that time, his beliefs would eventually win the day.

Following remand by the Michigan Supreme Court, the apportionment commission deadlocked along party lines.  The four Democratic commissioners continued to insist on the Austin-Kleiner plan.  The four Republican commissioners submitted their own alternative plan.  After a great deal of litigation, a majority of Michigan’s justices failed to adopt either of these two plans.  Therefore, by default, the Democratic Austin-Kleiner plan was left in place for the balance of the 1960s.  The apportionment commission was adjourned until the next federal census.

The Democratic Austin-Kleiner plan was left in place for the balance of the 1960s.

Apportionment has been argued in Michigan Courts ever since.  One side cries unfairness based upon a perceived disadvantage to their political party.  The other side says too bad, try again next time.

The constitutional convention of 1961 was right in its application and premise.

It allowed input from both major parties and potentially any that came afterward.  It made the representative seats accountable to population, and the Senate also population but weighted by the senate.  However, it has been ignored and the courts ruled until 1992 when three judges took it over.

In the 2000s and 2010s the GOP controlled both houses.  In 2010, the Democrats tried to cheat the voters with the fake tea party and RMGN, and lost what could have been their opportunity to have a say in the apportionment process. The 2002 and 2012 apportionment plans met the mandates set by the constitution, and the court ordered one-person one-vote mandate of 1964.

But does the apportionment process need to be tweaked?  Given the inability of our state to press for it’s 10th amendment right of self governance, it must.

We are unable to manifest a reasonable solution because of Supreme Court decisions that essentially render a second house unnecessary.  If we are to use population numbers alone; the standard that the Supreme Court demands, then we cannot be surprised at having the same results.

Results that authored from either side, will receive the scorn of the other.

Representation is not well done if an abstract diversity is forced into the populations however.  The new rules that proposal 2 mandates do so. Proposal to uses the word “SHALL” liberally and in some ways contrary to its purpose of ‘fairness.’ Shall is an absolute, yet fair is abstract and subjective.

No matter which method is used, there will be one side viewing it as unfair to their side.  In the beginning, Republicans were aghast that Democrats could so abuse the process.  Fast forward till today, when Democrats are aghast at what is the result of their abuses of such power in the past, and Republicans now control.

The premise that un-elected commissioners will not be partisan is of course absurd as well.  Is there a person alive who would serve such a role, that does not have an opinion of which politicians represent better?

Proposal 2 carries forward the tradition of going to the extremes in order to achieve some electoral superiority by changing the rules of the game.  It becomes a manipulation of standards instead of the personal appeals of politicians to the voters that will then determine policy making going forward.

The pendulum swings. And hard.

It is hard to argue anything but that changes should be made.  But not like this.

Not like those that come with Proposal 2



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