LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Two Democratic incumbents representing southeast Michigan in Congress will be tossed into the same district for the 2012 election under legislation signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
It’s possible the bills could be challenged in court by Democrats or others upset with portions of the redistricting plan. Critics of the plans have said Republicans are trying to protect their own incumbents while possibly violating protections for minority voters.
John Tramontana, a spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Party, said no decisions have been made about possible legal action. Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer called the redistricting maps “politically and racially gerrymandered” in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. Reps. Sander Levin of Royal Oak and Gary Peters of Oakland County’s Bloomfield Township, both Democrats, would be put in the same district for the 2012 election under the plan signed by Snyder and approved by the Republican-led Michigan Legislature earlier this summer.
Dr. John Clark, chair of the Western Michigan University Department of Political Science, saw this decision coming.
“The way things line up… there are two Democratic incumbents whose hometowns are very close together in Oakland County,” Clark said. “Two Democratic incumbents… will have both of their districts drawn together essentially. So, only one of them, presumably, would be able to survive the Democratic Primary and one of the can return to Washington, one of them can go home.”
Michigan is dropping to 14 congressional seats from 15 because of declining population based on the U.S. Census. Snyder noted Michigan once had 19 seats in Congress.
Levin said he will “actively support every feasible effort to challenge the legality of this decision” in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
“If legal challenges are unsuccessful in overturning this map, I will run for re-election in the proposed 9th District,” Levin said.
The maps also would result in decreased clout for Detroit and Wayne County in the state Legislature because of decreased population. The House has 110 seats, while the Senate has 38 seats.
Republicans have defended the maps as legal and fair throughout the redistricting process. But Democrats say the new districts were adopted quickly and without enough public feedback.
“These bills were rammed through the Legislature with little public notice and no public input,” Brewer said in a statement. “The Republican Legislature ignored alternative maps which better complied with both state and federal law.”
The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus said in a letter to Snyder that it “reserves all of its options to address this legislation in the forums that are available to us.” The letter said the “flawed” redistricting plans would “disenfranchise voters of color in the State of Michigan for the next decade.”
The caucus letter said the state legislative district plan sets up black lawmakers for “harsher treatment” relative to the number of primary election challenges and divides the Latino community in southwest Detroit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.