The Michigan Democratic Party doesn’t like Michigan’s redistricting process, and they don’t like Republicans either.
So this week’s news that Republican Rep. Marty Knollenberg is running for Congress gave MDP Chair Mark Brewer an opening for a one-two punch.
Brewer today issued a press release calling for redistricting reform, noting that Knollenberg of Troy sits on the House Redistricting Committee, which is charged, along with the Senate Redistricting Committee, with carving out new state legislative and U.S. congressional districts based on 2010 Census numbers. The plan would have to pass in both chambers and be signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Knollenberg confirmed that he is planning to run for Congress, and would likely make his bid for Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peter’s District 9 seat, provided he’s still in that district after the maps are redrawn.
Democrats aren’t happy that Republicans, as the party with control of the House, Senate and Governor’s Office, will have control over the changes as a result of the population downsizing of Detroit, Wayne County and state.
It’s more than sour grapes, though. A groundswell of support is emerging for Michigan to join 23 other states that have independent commissions to redraw political maps, or which play an advisory or oversight role. The election watchdog group Common Cause and a consortium called the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative have called for more fairness and transparency in Michigan’s remapping system.
“This major conflict of interest is the latest example of why we need redistricting reform now,” Brewer said in today’s release. “Elected officials should not draw a district in which they plan to seek future office. That’s wrong, and it needs to be changed immediately.
“I have no doubt Republicans like Representative Knollenberg will try to gerrymander the districts to give Republicans the best chance of winning elections for the next 10 years,” added Brewer. “It’s not fair to the voters and it’s not fair to the process. Redistricting must be done in a fair, unbiased fashion.
“We believe elected officials should not have the power to design their own districts in order to directly benefit them. It is an obvious conflict of interest and it’s time we reformed the process.”
Knollenberg said his congressional bid does not create a conflict of interest. He’s certainly in no more a conflicted position than anybody else on the committee, he said.
“Everybody that sits on that committee is running for something and every member of the House and Senate will be voting on a bill that decides on redistricting,” Knollenberg said.
Asked if he thinks it’s appropriate for the Legislature to decide on their own political districts, he said yes. After all, there’s no guarantee a commission would be above politics.
“It’s well within the function of the Legislature (and) there’s no such thing as nonpartisan,” Knollenberg said, noting there’s a high likelihood details of the plan will ultimately be decided in court.
“Whether it’s the Legislature doing it or somebody else doing it, it has to meet the standards of the law and then it will hold up.”