Michigan Gerrymandering: Sorting out our Legislative Districts

Michigan’s gerrymandering can make it hard to figure out who represents you.

No matter where in Michigan you live, you’re in three legislative districts – a state senate district, a state congressional district, and a U.S. congressional district. The maps below show the gerrymandering that resulted in the districts we have now. The lists on the lower right tell you which U.S. Representatives, State Representatives, and State Senators represent which districts.

Two sites make it easy to find out who represents you Lansing.

If you live near a jagged boundary between districts, the maps below may not tell you which district you’re in. Here’s how you can find out:

Of course, everywhere in Michigan, our U.S. Senators are Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.

Our legislative gerrymandering has given us odd-shaped districts.

Southwest Michigan’s State Senate districts are fairly straightforward, but the boundaries for State and U.S. Congressional districts aren’t. We’ve got some weird-shaped gerrymandering going on here that keeps our voting districts from being anything but clear-cut.

 The Southwest Michigan Legislative Districts: The Michigan Senate The Southwest Michigan Legislative Districts: The Statehouse

The maps above show only the Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group’s nine counties. Twelve representatives and five senators represent us in Lansing. We have four representatives in Washington.

Three of our State Senate districts extend beyond our nine counties:

  • The 26th District pokes a finger up through the middle of Kent County to the Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids city limits.
  • The 19th District includes Ionia County along with Calhoun and Barry Counties.
  • Branch County is with Jackson and Hillsdale Counties in the 16th District.

Three of our State Congressional districts also reach beyond our counties:

  • The 72nd District pokes up into Kent County like the 26th Senate District
  • The 87th District includes rural Ionia County – Portland, but not Ionia and Belding.
  • The 58th District includes all of Hillsdale County.

When Michigan legislators drew the new maps in 2011, demographics was the only thing that counted, no matter how far-flung the U.S. Congressional Districts were.

A family living near Toledo’s city dump, which is in Michigan, can have the same U.S. Representative as a farmer 30 miles west of Lansing. Across-the-street neighbors in Holland can have two different U.S. Representatives.

 The Southwest Michigan Legislative Districts: How Holland got Gerrymandered

distmap

Part of the half of Holland that’s in Allegan County is in the 2nd District and part is in the 6th. The red boundary lines show Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group’s nine-county area. (Click to enlarge)

Calhoun County Commission 3rd District (click to enlarge).

How Holland got gerrymandered

Straddling Ottawa and Allegan Counties isn’t problematic enough for the city of Holland. In 2011 when our legislators reapportioned, they made the Allegan County part of Holland straddle the 2nd and 6th U.S. Congressional Districts. The map on the left shows how Holland got gerrymandered.

The nine-county SWMG neighborhood includes all of the 6th Congressional District and parts of three others.

Southwest Michigan shares three of its four U.S. Representatives with all or part of sixteen other counties, as shown in the map on the left.

How did Woodbury – in Eaton County, about halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids – end up in the 7th Congressional District, which borders on Lake Erie? Gerrymandering.

Like Holland, Union City – just south of Battle Creek – straddles two counties. The Branch County part is in the 7th District with Woodbury and the Lake Erie shoreline. The Calhoun County part is the 3rd District, along with Kent City, about 20 miles north of Grand Rapids. Gerrymandering.

The mapmakers negated the voices and interests of the people in the 7th District’s mostly urban Monroe County by making the rest of the district very rural. Why else would Washtenaw County’s Ann Arbor not be in the 7th District? Gerrymandering.

Michigan counties engage in gerrymandering too. The map on the left shows District 3 of the Calhoun County Commission.

Why is gerrymandering a problem? What’s the solution?

The Sierra Club believes in fair and representative redistricting.

“Shadowy organizations and big polluters,” says this Sierra Club report, “are trying to suppress the vote, especially from communities of color and other minority communities. One way they’re doing this is through gerrymandering, or redrawing electoral districts to establish a political advantage by grouping certain demographics together or blocking them out.”

How Gerrymandering works

Here are some of the people and groups fighting for redistricting reform. They can use your support.

  • Jon Hoadley, State Representative from Kalamazoo, and 35th District Representative Jeremy Moss have introduced a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of legislators. Tell your Representative to support the bill. The right-hand column of this page has contact info for SW Michigan legislators. How to contact other Michigan legislators:
    • On the “Representatives” page at the Michigan House website is a form where you can enter your ZIP code and click “Find A Representative.” You’ll go straight to your Representative’s page.
    • The Michigan Senate provides the same service at “Find Your Senator by Address.”
  • Support Representatives Hoadley and Moss. Visit MiLines.org and become a citizen co-sponsor.
  • Get in on Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s Citizen Lobby Day and talk face-to-face with your State Representative and State Senator.
  • League of Women Voters of Michigan has information, a position statement, and resource material about redistricting in Michigan.
  • Count MI Vote is working on it. They have a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.
  • Voters Not Politicians is on the case, too. They’re working on a ballot initiative. Visit their website and Facebook page.

One Comment

  1. Hey Sierra Club! I am working on outreach for the Voters Not Politicians ballot initiative in SW Michigan. Let’s connect so I can hear your concerns on gerrymandering and fill you in on our progress so far.

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