The Supreme Court’s upholding of a partisan gerrymander was a crushing defeat for a lot of states who struggle with fair district lines. And one of the least fair states in the nation is Michigan.
Using a measure called “the efficiency gap” that calculates the number of partisan votes “wasted” by the drawing of districts, Michigan rates one of the worst states in the nation according to the Center for Michigan. Their magazine, Bridge, found the districts in Michigan favored Republicans by between 10.1 and 22.8 percent depending on the race.
This, it turns out, wasn’t just not an accident, it was boasted about.
One Macomb County district is shaped like “it’s giving the finger to sandy levin [sic]. I love it,” said one Republican aide in emails obtained by Bridge. The aide referred to Congressman Sander Levin, a Democrat who represents parts of Michigan’s Oakland and Macomb counties.
These emails emerged as part of a lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering despite years of claims that lines were drawn without political bias.
In one email, GOP aide Jack Daly said that by ensuring racial gerrymandering rules were satisfied (“increase the black population in black districts” as he put it), they actually gained advantage with a political gerrymander.
“In a glorious way that makes it easier to cram ALL of the Dem garbage in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties into only four districts. Is there anyone on our side who doesn’t recognize that dynamic?” Daly wrote.
Another email seemed to promise a Republican incumbent full control to choose his voters, saying “we will accommodate whatever Dave wants in his district.” This in regard to Dave Camp, a now-retired congressman from Michigan’s 4th District in the center of the state’s lower peninsula.
That email was written by Robert LaBrant, a longtime Michigan Chamber of Commerce executive and current Republican consultant. The emails show the Chamber worked closely with Michigan Republicans to design the most advantageous map possible, while maintaining the process was without political bias.
LeBrant put forth an effort to conceal the extent of the gerrymander he engaged in alongside Michigan Republicans, as well.
“We needed for legal and PR purposes a good looking map that did not look like an obvious gerrymander,” LeBrant wrote May 26, 2011.
LeBrant’s work on Michigan districts was hailed as genius by David Daley in his book Ratfucked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count, saying “Perhaps no individual has done more than LaBrant to shape Michigan politics.”
But even after he left the Chamber, the Chamber remained deeply invested in Republican district control as a strategy.
The Chamber has also donated at least $135,000 to a group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution that filed suit to block a ballot measure seeking to establish a nonpartisan and independent redistricting commission. That lawsuit is presently before the state’s Supreme Court.
Presumptive Republican Gubernatorial Candidate and Attorney General Bill Schuette also opposes an independent redistricting commission, which may be a central thrust for the democratic candidate in a party that is not fond of redistricting (though naturally has engaged in it).
As it presently stands, Republicans are poised to draw the lines nationwide once again.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.