pcloudyn.png
Monday November 28th, 2022 7:08AM

Flip of Michigan Legislature highlights role of fair maps

By The Associated Press

Democratic candidates for the Michigan House and Senate won a majority of votes this year, translating into their party winning control of both legislative chambers. That may seem like a natural result, but it hasn't been in previous elections.

While Democrats also won a majority of votes in 2018 and 2020, Republicans won majorities in the Legislature. The difference this time: Candidates ran in new districts drawn by a citizens commission instead of ones crafted by Republican lawmakers that were designed to help keep their party in power.

“Michigan went from some of the most extremely gerrymandered maps to some of the country’s fairest maps, and now we have a perfect alignment between the votes that voters cast and the officials that were elected into office," said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. Her group spearheaded a successful 2018 ballot initiative that changed the way Michigan's legislative districts are drawn.

An Associated Press analysis of election data indicates that Michigan's new state legislative districts reduced the built-in advantage Republicans had enjoyed over the previous decade. It shows that gerrymandering — or the lack of it — can affect the balance of power in legislatures and, ultimately, the policies they pursue.

The launch of Michigan's new legislative districts this year coincided with a ballot measure seeking to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The abortion measure passed with nearly 57% of the vote, elevating an issue that gave Democrats an edge in some competitive districts.

Abortion "was definitely a factor in my race, and most likely in every race across the state,” said Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Pamela Hornberger, whose roughly 300-vote loss in a state Senate race was the closest statewide.

Recently reelected Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer already is talking about working with Michigan's new Democratic legislative majority to fully rescind a 1931 law that bans abortion and to codify same-sex marriage rights — two issues that gained little traction in the Republican-led Legislature.

The legislative flip in Michigan was part of a strong showing for Democrats at the state level in this year's midterm elections. Wins in legislative or governor's races also gave them full control of the government in Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

Michigan is not the only state with a history of partisan gerrymandering, in which the party in charge draws districts to its advantage — packing voters of the other party into select districts and spreading others among multiple districts to diminish their clout. Gerrymandering surged among both Republicans and Democrats this past redistricting cycle.

Unlike in Michigan, voters in about half the states do not have the ability to put issues on the ballot through citizen initiatives. So similar redistricting initiatives can't be pursued in Democratic-dominated Maryland or be used to check the power of Republican-led legislatures in North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, where partisan maps all have faced lawsuits.

For the past decade, Michigan's legislative elections were held under maps enacted in 2011 by a Republican-led Legislature and governor. Those districts gave Republican candidates one of the largest advantages in the nation, according to a prior AP analysis that used a mathematical formula to illustrate potential instances of gerrymandering. That formula shows the maps used in the 2022 elections were nearly politically neutral.

In 2018 and 2020, Democratic candidates received a slight majority of the total state House votes, yet Republicans won a 58-52 House majority each year. Democrats also received more votes for the Michigan Senate in the last election in 2018, yet Republicans won a 22-16 majority under the maps they had drawn.

A constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018 established the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and stripped lawmakers of their redistricting responsibilities. The measure required a 13-member panel, randomly selected from a pool of applicants, to consider “partisan fairness” as one of several criteria for drawing maps. The process kicked in with the 2020 census.

Were it not for the new districts, Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt, a Democrat, said she probably would not have run for the Senate. But she seized the chance when a new map combined parts of two previous districts to create a new district in the northern Detroit metro area. Klinefelt defeated a Republican incumbent who was trying to represent the new district.

“The opportunity to flip the Senate for the first time in 38 years was something that I couldn’t just walk away from,” Klinefelt said.

Hornberger's quest for a newly created Senate district pitted her against Democratic state Rep. Kevin Hertel. Like other Michigan races this election, their contest drew unprecedented spending from Democrats seeking to take control of the chamber. Democrats attacked what Hornberger described as a mistaken vote against a bill about reporting child abuse that she later reversed, while Republicans attacked Hertel over an unpaid tax bill from years ago.

Hornberger said she was disgusted by the tone of the campaign.

“It just goes to show you how absolutely crucial it is to have that power in Lansing, Democrat or Republican," she said, later adding: "and the amount of money we will spend and the horrible things we will do to each other to get it.”

Yet Hornberger said she considers the maps drawn by the citizens commission to be fair.

An analysis conducted for the commission when the maps were adopted projected that if Democrats received 52.3% of the vote, they would win a 20-18 Senate majority and a 57-53 House majority.

The actual results tracked almost exactly with that ratio. Democratic legislative candidates received just under 51% of the total statewide votes. Democrats won a 20-18 Senate majority and a 56-54 House majority.

“Honestly I think we did a pretty decent job," said Dustin Witjes, a Democratic commissioner.

Republican commissioner Douglas Clark and nonpartisan commissioner Rebecca Szetela also said they were pleased that the percentage of seats won by each party aligned so closely with the percentage of votes they received.

"To me, a fair map is a map that reflects the will of the voters,” Szetela said.

Partisan balance can be achieved through a mixture of lopsided districts favoring Democrats and Republicans or with districts containing a more bipartisan split among voters. Commissioners said it wasn't their goal to create more competitive districts, but it was a byproduct in some cases.

While the number of Senate races decided by less than 10 percentage points remained the same from 2018 to 2022, the number of close House races rose from 14 in each of the previous two elections to 20 this year.

“Depending on the issues of the election and depending on the candidates, some of these districts can go either way -- they can go Republican or they can go Democrat," Clark said. "In this instance in this election, more of them went Democrat. So I think we have to accept those results -- that’s what the people wanted.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Senate Election News, General House Election News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Dubai airport chief says passengers top pre-pandemic level
The CEO of Dubai International Airport says passenger numbers for the third quarter of 2022 have surpassed pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels
5:16AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Indonesia quake death toll rises to 252 as more bodies found
Indonesian authorities say the death toll from Monday’s earthquake on Java has leapt to 252 as more bodies have been discovered under collapsed buildings
5:07AM ( 14 minutes ago )
World Cup Viewer's Guide: Messi seeks history with Argentina
Lionel Messi returns to the World Cup for a fifth attempt at finally winning soccer’s biggest prize
4:53AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Rage and sadness as Colorado club shooting victims honored
Hundreds of people, many holding candles and wiping away tears, have gathered in a Colorado Springs park to honor those killed and wounded when a gunman opened fire on a nightlife venue that for decades was a sanctuary for the local LGBTQ community
3:19AM ( 2 hours ago )
'It's the reflex': Veteran helped disarm gunman at gay club
An army veteran who helped subdue the gunman at a gay club in Colorado Springs credits his military training and instincts in helping him disarm the attacker
3:15AM ( 2 hours ago )
Report: Welding sparked central China fire that killed 38
Investigators say welding work caused a fire that killed 38 people at an industrial wholesaler in central China's Henan province
3:12AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Gay bar shooting suspect faces murder, hate crime charges
Hundreds of people have gathered in a Colorado Springs park to honor five people killed and 17 wounded in a weekend shooting at a gay nightclub
10:49PM ( 6 hours ago )
Widow asks $55M from NCAA for ex-USC football player's death
An attorney for the widow of a former University of Southern California football player has asked a jury to award her more than $50 million in a lawsuit accusing the NCAA with failing to protect her husband from repetitive head trauma
9:57PM ( 7 hours ago )
Biden opens holidays, pardons turkeys Chocolate and Chip
It's holiday time at the White House, and President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are plunging into the season
9:07PM ( 8 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Australia ratifies free trade deals with India and Britain
Australia’s Parliament has passed bilateral free trade agreements with India and Britain, leaving those partner nations to bring the deals into force
11:40PM ( 5 hours ago )
Australian trade deals with India and Britain reach Senate
Australian bilateral free trade agreements with India and Britain have entered the Senate with the government pushing to have both deals secured this year
8:48PM ( 8 hours ago )
Gay club shooting suspect evaded Colorado's red flag gun law
The suspect in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb last year
8:14PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
FIFA threat makes World Cup teams nix 'One Love' armbands
FIFA’s threat of on-field punishment for players has pushed World Cup teams to back down
3:16PM ( 14 hours ago )
Supreme Court takes Jack Daniel's case against dog toy maker
The Supreme Court says it will hear a dispute over a dog toy that got whiskey maker Jack Daniel’s barking mad
2:51PM ( 14 hours ago )
Malta proposes bill to ease EU's strictest anti-abortion law
Malta’s government has introduced legislation to ease the European Union’s strictest anti-abortion law and allow the procedure in cases where the mother’s life or health is at risk
2:19PM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Kazakh president wins new term against weak opposition
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev easily won a new seven-year term in a snap election in which the second biggest choice by voters was to reject all six candidates, the country’s central elections commission said Monday
5:09AM ( 1 day ago )
Trump's growing GOP challengers revive fears of 2016 repeat
No fewer than 10 major Republican White House prospects stepped onto the ballroom stage this weekend for the unofficial opening of the next presidential primary season
12:00PM ( 1 day ago )
Malaysia's nationalist block closer to forming government
Malaysia’s next government appears to be leaning to the religious right as a coalition of Malay nationalists won support of an influential bloc after tightly fought general elections failed to produce a clear winner
9:10AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections
'Democracy voters' delivered for Democrats in tightest races
President Joe Biden tried to shape the midterm elections not as a verdict on his time in office, but rather on the contrast between Democrats and Republicans on American democracy
6:50PM ( 5 days ago )
McConnell reelected Senate GOP leader; Scott's bid rejected
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has been reelected as Republican leader, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida
1:52PM ( 5 days ago )
Masters concedes Senate race, Hobbs celebrates governor win
Republican Blake Masters called Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly to concede in the Arizona Senate race
5:54PM ( 6 days ago )
General Senate Election News
NC Democrats' parity in Congress delegation may be fleeting
Democrats celebrated winning North Carolina's lone toss-up race for the U.S. House this month as Wiley Nickel won the 13th District seat
2:40PM ( 2 days ago )
Frisch concedes race against Boebert as it goes to recount
Democrat Adam Frisch has conceded his tight U.S. House race against Republican Lauren Boebert that is likely headed to a recount
6:31PM ( 3 days ago )
Republican Boebert's tight race likely headed to recount
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is likely headed to an automatic recount in her bid to fend off a surprisingly difficult challenge from a Democratic businessman from the ritzy ski town of Aspen
10:38PM ( 4 days ago )
General House Election News
Indonesia quake death toll rises to 252 as more bodies found
Indonesian authorities say the death toll from Monday’s earthquake on Java has leapt to 252 as more bodies have been discovered under collapsed buildings
5:07AM ( 14 minutes ago )
World Cup Viewer's Guide: Messi seeks history with Argentina
Lionel Messi returns to the World Cup for a fifth attempt at finally winning soccer’s biggest prize
4:53AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Analysis: As NBA's first quarter ends, the contenders emerge
Miami Heat President Pat Riley has a longstanding belief: After 20 games, a team knows its identity
4:45AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Global stocks gain after Wall St slide, China virus fears
Major global stock markets are higher after Wall Street sank and Chinese anti-virus controls fueled concern about an economic slowdown
4:44AM ( 37 minutes ago )
'Stock up on blankets': Ukrainians brace for bleak winter
One of Ukraine's energy chiefs says rolling blackouts across Ukraine may continue through March
4:33AM ( 48 minutes ago )