Thursday, March 4, 2010
New county districts approved
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
The race is on for seats on the revamped Board of Commissioners after a county panel Wednesday approved a new map that outlines legislative districts for the 2010 elections.
By a 4-1 vote, the county Apportionment Commission, dominated by Democrats, approved new boundaries that chop the commissioner seats down from 26 to 13, as required by the voter-approved county charter.
Based on the lines drawn in the new map, the Democrats could maintain their proportional dominance of the board — currently 20-6, possibly 10-3 under the new board. Democratic Party leaders say the new boundaries are not a revamp of the political landscape, but instead a simple attempt to combine adjacent districts, two at a time, into 13 election territories.
But Republicans claim the map was drawn to give the Democrats a partisan advantage.
"We want to represent the will of the people. The will of the people is not to have a gerrymandered map," said Macomb GOP Chairman Jared Maynard, the lone dissenting vote Wednesday.
Maynard did not rule out the prospect of filing a court challenge to the redistricting process, but he conceded that time is running out as potential candidates consider a run. A separate legal challenge filed by Robert Brandenburg of Macomb Township, former Macomb GOP chairman, was dismissed earlier this week by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Brandenburg's petition to the court asked the appellate judges to appoint a "special master"— an impartial overseer — to take over the process and draw the county districts for the coming elections.
Apportionment Commission Chairman Ted Wahby said the county planning department reviewed the map offered by the Democrats and two maps offered by the GOP and they concluded that the Republican plans were unacceptable.
"They (Republicans) don't like it because their plans didn't pass muster," said Wahby, a St. Clair Shores Democrat. "You've got to meet the standards. The key thing to me was to make sure the plan met all the requirements."
All those involved agree that the two Republican maps, drawn by Brandenburg, violate the "one man, one vote" principle by creating wide variances in population from district to district. But Maynard maintains that the squiggly lines on the Democratic map fail to meet state standards calling for square, compact districts.
The Apportionment Commission is comprised of: Wahby, Maynard, county Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, Prosecutor Eric Smith and the Macomb Democrats' Vice Chair Michelle DeBeaussaert. The membership is established by state law, leaving Maynard as the only Republican on the panel.
Smith expressed reservations about the new boundary lines that create divisions within the black community in southern Clinton Township, but he still voted for the plan.
While the GOP has 30 days to decide whether to go to court, the new map is official and commissioner candidates are now free to file for office, with the August primary and November general election approaching. The filing deadline is May 11.
For a detailed look at the new map, log on to macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice/apportionment/ and click on the DeBeaussaert plan.