Lies, Damned Lies, and Democrat Redistricting Plans
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution (as modified by Amendment 14, Section 2) provides that the whole population of the country should be enumerated every ten years subsequent to the first such enumeration. And, as a result of each census, each state's representation in Congress is reapportioned (which also applies to other proportionate-representation bodies such as state legislatures and county commissions). Article 4, Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution provides for the Commission on Legislative Apportionment. P.A. 261 of 1966 is the governing authority for the statutory apportionment guidelines for county commission reapportionment. (The controlling court case for county reapportionment is 413 Mich 224 .)
In Michigan, the County Apportionment Commission consists of 5 members: The County Clerk, the County Treasurer, the County Prosecutor, and the chairs of the two county party committees that received the largest share of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial election. In the case of Kent County, the Board of Commissioners is 15 R - 4 D (because the Kent GOP was able to flip four seats in 2010) and the Apportionment Commission is 4 R - 1 D. And with the dems that badly outnumbered, you just know that they're going to get . . . creative . . . in their approach to "assisting" in the redistricting process.
Some additional legal stuff first
According to MCL 46.404, the apportionment guidelines that must be followed in redrawing the county commission districts are these:
The number of county commissioners that the Apportionment Commission is permitted to apportion for is determined by total county population, but not less than 5 nor more than 35. With a 2010 population of 602,622, the Kent County Board of Commissioners should have between 17 and 35 seats. In determining what size would be appropriate, the commission took into account several things, these three among them:
One more thing: In accordance with established case law, in order to create a district that has a majority of one minority group within the district, that district must contain at least 50% of that minority's voting age population. This essentially requires a given minority group to be living in a concentrated enough area that a district drawn in compliance with the MCL 46.404 guidelines will have minority representation as the majority presence among those in the district who are old enough to vote. Keep that in mind, we'll be referring back to it.
Jim Rinck - Chairman, Kent County Democrat Party (KCDP)
To call Chairman Rinck a real piece of work is about the same as calling Mark Brewer a real piece of work, except that Rinck isn't even that successful politically (so far as I know). Over the last 14 or 15 years, the only success that Rinck has enjoyed at the ballot box, that I'm aware of, was in getting himself elected to the Grand Rapids Public School Board (GRPS). And to say that he was effective in that capacity would be charitable.
I've spoken with some GRPS parents, as well as at least one member of the Kent County Black Caucus (KCBC), and all of them characterized Rinck's "management" style as combative and confrontational. ("He just steamrolls or flat-out ignores anybody who doesn't see things his way," was one quote.) That's when he isn't being either aloof or thuggish. Aloof, in that he had a reputation for reading a newspaper during GRPS board meetings and being thoroughly unresponsive to parents' concerns, among other things. Thuggish, in that he . . . well . . .
Sandy Smith, a "person of color" (not my quote) who has a long track record of party loyalty, community activism, and union credibility, was elected chair of the KCDP in Nov/Dec 2009. Now I've never met Ms. Smith personally, but I'm told that she's a fair-minded, reasonable person who is fairly easy to work with. But the problem is that Sandy isn't white. And that, according to my KCBC friend, annoyed local UAW-PAC leadership enough that they made a point of engineering Ms. Smith's ouster at the KCDP December 2010 convention.
This was accomplished, so I was told, by the KCDP's UAW liaison bringing a local GOTV specialist out of retirement (apparently in a last-ditch effort to stave off the shellacking that the dems received at the local ballot box). However, this GOTV specialist had a major problem working with the leadership of KCDP and KCBC . . . because they weren't white. The resulting internal dustup was apparently all the pretext that UAW-PAC leadership needed to leverage Sandy Smith's ouster. The union then arranged for the election of Jim Rinck and several other union puppets to KCDP's committee of officers.
If I've been informed correctly, then for a stunt like that to be pulled by the political party that publicly swears to be "the party of inclusiveness" is nothing short of appalling, though I can't say that I'm all that surprised. According to my friend on the KCBC, caucus leadership isn't thrilled with many of the new KCDP officers, generally feeling disenfranchised by the whole affair. Caucus leadership considers the union's actions to be disrespectful or dictatorial (depending on whom you talk to). And they place the blame squarely at the feet of Chairman Rinck.
Lying via press release
No sooner had the Kent County Apportionment Commission posted notice of its first meeting then Jim Rinck cranked up the pander propaganda machine, swearing up and down that he would draw up a plan creating a Hispanic-majority district on Grand Rapids' southwest side and a Black-majority district on Grand Rapids' southeast side. Why? Because he claimed that the Voting Rights Act requires it, that's why. And Jim Harger of the Grand Rapids Press twice (on April 27th and April 28th) made a point of quoting Rinck's assertion to that effect.
However, had Harger or anyone else at the Press bothered to independently corroborate Rinck's press release, they would have realized that the first plan submitted by the Democrats, when compared to the actual 2010 census data (which was available to each member of the Apportionment Commission), actually removed the one existing "minority in majority" district, and on that basis alone was summarily rejected by the rest of the commission. (Apparently, Rinck was using 2008 population data to draw the map.) Allowing Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 1 to survive even long enough to see a public hearing would have opened the entire commission up to a "regression" lawsuit, and the four Republican members of the commission weren't interested in any of that.
The second Democrat plan still pretended to create separate Hispanic and Black districts, but also violated municipal boundaries apparently at random, and created seven county districts with multiple precinct splits (including at least four city precincts with either triple or quadruple splits). Grand Rapids City Clerk Lauri Parks testified before the commission that Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 2 would amount to an administrative nightmare, and urged the commission to reject the proposal, which they subsequently did.
Mind you, the flaws in both of those plans did not make it into Jim Harger's reporting, but he did make a point of citing that a Republican-dominated Apportionment Commission had twice rejected Democrat-proposed plans that included two minority-majority districts. I don't know the guy personally, but apparently he's content to regurgitate the Rinck talking points without bothering to do the homework necessary to ensure independent corroboration.
The Republican Reapportionment Proposal, submitted by Kent GOP Chairman Sam Moore, was drawn in full compliance with the MCL 46.404 guidelines. From what I've been told, Chairman Moore exercised a considerable amount of diligence to make sure that his plan was fair and followed the law. It creates three open seats (districts 9, 16, and 17), sets up one Republican Primary (district 7 - Ponstein / Bolema), one Democrat Primary (district 15 - Talen / Chivas), and one general match-up (district 6 - Wawee / Hennessy). The one Black-majority district (district 17) is preserved, and a "combined-minority in majority" district (district 15) is created. Significantly, there were fewer than a dozen municipal splits . . . and zero precinct splits.
And while the Grand Rapids press article of May 4th mentioned many of those facts, the headline (on yet another article written by Harger) focuses on the fact that the Republican-submitted plan did not include a Hispanic-majority district. (Now mind you, the Harger article somehow manages to ignore the reality that Rinck's plans didn't create a Hispanic-majority district either, but evidently the facts aren't supposed to interfere with a good propaganda piece.) The semi-quote from Moore in the article is one of the few things that Harger got right; the Hispanic population that covers Wyoming and the southwest side of Grand Rapids is too dispersed to provide any reasonable district draw that would produce a Hispanic-majority district without simultaneously violating the population standard.
On the Friday before the public hearing (which was set for Tuesday, May 17th), Rinck, apparently seeing that he wasn't going to get anywhere with gerrymandered toilet paper, abandoned all pretense of drawing a Hispanic-majority district and submitted a third plan. Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 3 preserved the existing Black-majority district (as district 18), though with a smaller afro-american concentration than Moore's district 17. But, with regard to district 15, Rinck's third plan doesn't even create a combined-minority in majority, and provides a smaller Hispanic concentration (31%) than Moore's drawing of district 15 (37%).
While Rinck's third map does meet the population standards, it's gerrymandered enough so that it creates three Republican primaries (one of them a three-way primary, and one Republican primary followed by a general head-to-head match up) while conveniently protecting all four sitting Democrats on the Board of Commissioners. The only advantage that the third dem plan has over the Republican plan is that it's more compact, and I'm aware of no court precedent that overrules an adopted apportionment plan based solely on compactness.
Kent County District 15
Whether it's the third democrat proposal or the republican proposal that was officially adopted by the apportionment commission on May 19th, District 15 has become the subject of considerable fuss within Kent County's Hispanic Community. So much so that the 2nd Vice-President of the Michigan Democrat Party, Lupe Ramos-Montigny - we've heard her name somewhere before - and Martha Gonzalez-Cortez, CEO of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, went on record as considering legal options for overturning the adopted plan. Never mind the evidence that a Hispanic-majority district cannot be created without simultaneously violating all of the laws regarding redistricting; they were promised their own district, dammit, and to hell with the reality that the promise was based on so much swamp gas.
Rinck, of course, is also considering a lawsuit, based apparently on the rather curious notion that compactness of the districts should be an overriding requirement when the law clearly states otherwise. The May 18th article in the Press, the only account in the Press regarding this whole affair that wasn't written by Jim Harger (and only a little less slanted than Harger's coverage), still seems to make a point of highlighting every perceived weakness in the adopted reapportionment plan while simultaneously sweeping key facts under a rhetorical rug.
Let's start with the fact that, during May 17th's public hearing on the competing proposals, the leadership of the West Michigan Hispanic Center questioned Jim Rinck publicly regarding his rationale for not including a Hispanic-majority district, and as to why his best final offer was District 15, which has only a 31% concentration. In response to their questions, Chairman Rinck . . . ignored them. That's right, the county chair of the "party of inclusiveness," when all the cards were finally on the table, flatly turned his back on the community segment he'd attempted to leverage against the Apportionment Commission in the local media and throughout the redistricting process.
Then let's add the fact that the Kent County Black Caucus is so thoroughly disgusted with this whole mess that the caucus chairman, Michael Scruggs, issued a press release on May 17th stating that the Democrat Party, in particular, takes the minority vote for granted and does not give minorities adequate due process within the party:
"The Democrat Party seems to never show due diligence, or be in due form, while supporting African-American issues and backing their candidates . . . The Kent County Democrat Party presented a segregated plan that separates the districts by drawing a racial map that distinguishes the African-American and Hispanic districts with one vote each, and giving the white districts a total of seventeen votes . . . The Democrats' proposal dangerously exercises authority, and takes ownership over the African-American vote."
To be honest with you, I really don't expect any different from the political party that has as its history a track record of opposition to abolition, emancipation, integration, and any other honest initiative that would honestly give every individual person an honest equal chance at their own pursuit of happiness. (There is a reason that Martin Luther King, jr., was a registered Republican for his entire adult life.)
And then finally add the fact that Sam Moore took the time, after the public comment period and before the vote, to rebut in detail the slanderous attacks, malicious claims, and other lies leveled by Rinck at the commission specifically and with regard to the process in general.
Nope, not one of these three facts saw so much as one letter of ink in the Grand Rapids Press reporting of the public hearing and vote adopting the new apportionment plan for Kent County, but the absence of a Hispanic district and the potential for two lawsuits sure did.
It's really annoying when someone who has a known track record for being a political loser winds up with a leveraged leadership position just in time to make a much bigger ass out of himself in a more public fashion. What really makes it worse is when that person seems to find it necessary to resort to racial and ethnic pandering, instead of facts and research, in order to put his stamp on something that's going to have at least a decade worth of local significance. However, given the caliber of leadership that the Democrats seem to be capable of these days, what I view as really annoying I don't view as really surprising.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Democrat Redistricting Plans | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Lies, Damned Lies, and Democrat Redistricting Plans | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ MCL 46.404
+ KCDP December 2010 convention
+ April 27th
+ April 28th
+ Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 1
+ Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 2
+ Republican Reapportionment Proposal
+ May 4th
+ Democrat Reapportionment Proposal # 3
+ officially adopted by the apportionment commission
+ May 19th
+ May 18th
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine