Thanks to those who posted comments on the first “Al’s Blog”. Dr. Mohr brought up the topic of county reapportionment so I thought I would include information on how the process is done.
County apportionment began in 1967 when the state legislature changed the way in which Michigan counties select the members of their board of commissioners. County commission seats became elected at that time and the name county board of commissioners also originated at that time. Previously Michigan county government had been organized on the New York model. The board of supervisors was made up of each township supervisor and an elected or appointed representative of each city ward. A 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision required that all legislative districts be apportioned on a one-person, one-vote basis. From 1967 on, counties must reapportion districts in time for the second election of each new decade. The process starts after new census data is released by the spring of the year that reapportionment occurs.
The team who actually draws the new district maps includes the county clerk, county treasurer, county prosecutor, and the county party chair of the two dominant political parties. The apportionment commission usually has 60 days to complete the task of redrawing commissioner districts. The legal standard is that districts must be “as nearly of equal population as is practicable.” Some of the other standards include the following:
- Districts must have contiguous land area
- Districts must be compact and as square as possible, depending on geography
- Townships and cities cannot be combined with others or divided except to meet the population requirement
- Precincts can only be divided to meet the population requirement
- Districts cannot be drawn for partisan political advantage
The apportionment commission can also decide the number of county commission seats. Ottawa County had 13 Commission seats prior to the 2000 census and the apportionment process eliminated 2 Commission seats leaving the current Board with 11 seats.
The reapportionment process is potentially as political at the county level as it is at the state level. Much of the information in this blog was adapted from Guide to Michigan County Government, the seminal book on the nuts and bolts of county government by Dr. Kenneth Verburg. Verburg writes: “The last of the reapportionment standards – districts are not to be drawn to effect partisan political advantage – must bring at least a little snicker to even a casual observer of apportionment politics.”
There have been claims in several counties including Ottawa that apportionment has been undertaken with different political agendas. As Dr. Mohr suggested the reapportionment process will indeed be interesting when it unfolds next year. Any concerns that I have would just be that reapportionment happen in a scientific manner and not to reward or harm individuals for their positions on the issues of the day. Ottawa County is the only Michigan county to grow at a rate of 10 percent or higher in population from 1960 to 2000 and early estimates are that the County grew 9.5 percent from 2000 to 2010. Proper representation is important for effective representation of the growing population.