Lapointe: Metro Detroit Gets a Dirty Deal from Supreme Court on Gerrymandering

October 23, 2019, 6:06 AM


Thanks to Mitch McConnell’s rigged Supreme Court, Michigan’s 2020 election may again yield too many right-wing Republicans due to gerrymandered districts that are drawn crooked, literally.

So the Great Lakes State can count on at least two more years of lousy roads, deteriorating schools and small-minded rule by hicks from the sticks.

Thank goodness Michigan voters last year created by constitutional referendum a new citizens’ board to draw new districts for 2022 that might be fairer to Democrats and to everyone else, too – unless Republicans overturn the will of the voters in yet another court case.

“They’re trying to throw out the whole thing,” Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, told Deadline Detroit in a telephone interview Tuesday.

A Supreme Court decision this past Monday was expected in the wake of a ruling involving North Carolina and Maryland last June. In that first 5-4 decision, the Court – in an echo of “states’ rights” logic -- ruled that settling gerrymandering squabbles in the states is not the business of the federal courts.

The second decision this week, in the Michigan case, overturned a federal appeals court ruling that would have forced the current Legislature to redraw --before the 2020 elections -- its unfair maps that that “pack and crack” districts to favor one party over the other, in this case the GOP over the Democrats.

Voters are cheated

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

The recent Supreme Court decisions swung on the votes of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both very conservative justices appointed by President Donald Trump.

Gorsuch was selected only because Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky) refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland during the last year of Obama’s second term in 2016.

So the gerrymandering continues, at least for one more cycle. Here is how it cheats many voters, even with Michigan’s “Blue Wave” vote of last November.

In the state Senate, the Democrats picked up six seats. But they still trail Republicans, 22-16, in the upper chamber despite out-polling the GOP by 49.3 percent to 42 percent in total Senate votes.

In the state House, Democrats picked up five seats. But they still trail Republicans, 58-52, in the lower chamber despite out-polling the GOP by 52.6 percent to 47 percent in total House votes.

Fishy aroma

And in voting for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, the Democrats won 56 percent of the votes but took only seven of the 14 seats.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Lupher said.

The state’s disproportionate Republican representation is the result of the so-called “Tea Party” backlash of 2009 after the election of President Obama. Michigan voters – some waving flags of snakes and of the Confederacy – turned the state red in 2010.

That worked out well for Republicans because the districts are re-drawn every 10 years, after the census, and, at that time, by Michigan’s state legislature.

William G. Milliken, who died last weekend. 

Under the reign of the new governor at the time, Rick Snyder, Michigan Republicans molded designer districts in their favor while turning Michigan into an anti-union “right-to-work” state. 

Where Are Milliken Republicans Now?

Their spirit was well-expressed in an email sent to GOP consultant Jeff Timmer by Jack Daly, then chief of staff to former GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.

“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,” he wrote to Timmer in May, 2011, according to the Bridge news site. “Is there anyone on our side who doesn’t recognize that dynamic?”

Indeed, we recognize it all too well. It is the sort of manipulation that undermines the spirit of democracy by weakening the worth of every big-city voter and inflating the clout of every vote cast in rural areas and small towns.

(Graphic: DepositPhotos)

This devious manipulation sparked resistance from reform groups like “Voters Not Politicians,” which reacted to Monday’s temporary setback with a statement that said in part:

“The public now knows what happens behind closed doors when politicians and special interests have the power to manipulate election district maps for partisan political gain. The U.S. Supreme Court’s unwillingness to protect voters from extreme partisan gerrymandering underscore the importance of citizen-led initiatives.”

Perhaps Michigan can blame itself, at least in part. Had this state and others in the Rust Belt rejected Trump in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have filled the last two Supreme Court seats.

Had that happened, the court might have overturned Michigan’s unfair maps and the healing would have started sooner.

As it stands, Democrats still must run – for at least one more election -- against a prevailing headwind that blows from the boondocks and fills the political atmosphere of Metro Detroit with toxic electoral dust.

And as the state buries former Gov. William Milliken this week, some may recall back a time long ago when many Michigan Republicans were progressive, decent and fair. But they don’t make many like Milliken anymore.

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Potd_freejoeexoticpotd_554 "Free Joe Exotic!", found on the East Side of Detroit

By: Dustin Blitchok