Oakland County Democrats to Challenge Redistricting Bill
The party plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of a bill that would reduce the number of county commissioners and allow its members to determine voting districts.
The fight over Oakland County redistricting continues. County Democrats announced Wednesday that they are planning to fight a recent bill that would reduce the number of Oakland County commissioners as well as allow the commission to determine their own voting districts.
According to The Detroit News, Oakland County Democratic Party chairman Frank Houston said he will be the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Snyder, expected to be filed by noon today in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing.
"It's bad public policy to have redistricting laws changed retroactively so legislators can then draw their own districts," Houston told The Detroit News. "It's bad for democracy."
The bill signed by Snyder on Dec. 21 would overturn a map drawn by a county committee charged with redrawing districts after the 2010 census.
The new law puts the board of commissioners in charge of drawing new districts in counties with a population of more than 1 million and an optional unified form of government with an elected county executive. Oakland is the only county affected by the new law, which would go into effect at the end of March.
With 25 commissioners, Oakland is also the only county affected by a new rule that limits the number of county commissioners to 21 in counties with more than 50,000 residents.
The package of bills was introduced Nov. 29 by state Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-46th District) and moved out of the House Government Operations Committee on Dec. 7. It passed through the state House 58-50 the next day and was later approved 20-17 by the state Senate.
Proponents of the bill say it could save the state roughly $500,000 by 2013 and at least $2.5 million by the 2020 census. The bill also drew approval from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who said the Democrats' move to challenge the bill would be overturning the will of the people.
"The Democrats want to overturn the will of the people so they can maintain a larger, more costly government in Oakland County," Patterson said in a statement Wednesday. "A majority of the representatives of the people of the State of Michigan voted in favor of the bill to reduce the number of Oakland County commissioners which was signed into law by our duly-elected governor."
The lawsuit filed by Houston, however, asks for an injunction that bars Oakland County's board of commissioners from beginning work on a new redistricting plan, and focuses on alleged constitutional violations.
Court upholds original redistricting map
This isn't the first time the original redistricting map has been called into question.
That map was drawn up in summer 2011 by the county Apportionment Commission, made up of three Democrats — Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, county Democratic Party Chairman Frank Houston and county treasurer Andy Meisner — and two Republicans — county Republican Party Chairman Jim Thienel and county clerk Bill Bullard.
Birmingham's commissioner, David Potts (R-Birmingham), filed a lawsuit against the proposed plan in July, accusing the Apportionment Commission of gerrymandering. The proposed plan would also pit Potts against fellow Republican incumbent Shelley Goodman Taub (R-West Bloomfield) for re-election to the county commission next year.
The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the proposed map in a November ruling, however at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees, Potts vowed the fight isn't over, insisting the case would be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The Detroit News reports the state Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Potts's attorney, Michael Bishop, because it was not filed by the Dec. 29 deadline.
Potts declined comment today and deferred questions to Bishop, who told the News that the initial appeal was submitted to the Supreme Court due to a "clerical error," and that the challenge was abandoned after Snyder signed the bill.