Michigan’s gerrymandering can make it hard to figure out who represents you.
No matter where in Michigan you live, you’re in three legislative districts – a state senate district, a state congressional district, and a U.S. congressional district. The maps below show the gerrymandering that resulted in the districts we have now. The lists on the lower right tell you which U.S. Representatives, State Representatives, and State Senators represent which districts.
Two sites make it easy to find out who represents you Lansing.
If you live near a jagged boundary between districts, the maps below may not tell you which district you’re in. Here’s how you can find out:
- On the “Representatives” page at the Michigan House website is a form where you can enter your ZIP code and click “Find A Representative.” You’ll go straight to your Representative’s page.
- The Michigan Senate provides the same service at “Find Your Senator by Address.”
Our legislative gerrymandering has given us odd-shaped districts.
Southwest Michigan’s State Senate districts are fairly straightforward, but the boundaries for State and U.S. Congressional districts aren’t. We’ve got some weird-shaped gerrymandering going on here that keeps our voting districts from being anything but clear-cut.
The maps above show only the Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group’s nine counties. Twelve representatives and five senators represent us in Lansing. We have four representatives in Washington.
Three of our State Senate districts extend beyond our nine counties:
- The 26th District pokes a finger up through the middle of Kent County to the Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids city limits.
- The 19th District includes Ionia County along with Calhoun and Barry Counties.
- Branch County is with Jackson and Hillsdale Counties in the 16th District.
Three of our State Congressional districts also reach beyond our counties:
- The 72nd District pokes up into Kent County like the 26th Senate District
- The 87th District includes rural Ionia County – Portland, but not Ionia and Belding.
- The 58th District includes all of Hillsdale County.
When Michigan legislators drew the new maps in 2011, demographics was the only thing that counted, no matter how far-flung the U.S. Congressional Districts were.
A family living near Toledo’s city dump, which is in Michigan, can have the same U.S. Representative as a farmer 30 miles west of Lansing. Across-the-street neighbors in Holland can have two different U.S. Representatives.
How Holland got gerrymandered
Straddling Ottawa and Allegan Counties isn’t problematic enough for the city of Holland. In 2011 when our legislators reapportioned, they made the Allegan County part of Holland straddle the 2nd and 6th U.S. Congressional Districts. The map on the left shows how Holland got gerrymandered.
The nine-county SWMG neighborhood includes all of the 6th Congressional District and parts of three others.
Southwest Michigan shares three of its four U.S. Representatives with all or part of sixteen other counties, as shown in the map on the left.
How did Woodbury – in Eaton County, about halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids – end up in the 7th Congressional District, which borders on Lake Erie? Gerrymandering.
Like Holland, Union City – just south of Battle Creek – straddles two counties. The Branch County part is in the 7th District with Woodbury and the Lake Erie shoreline. The Calhoun County part is the 3rd District, along with Kent City, about 20 miles north of Grand Rapids. Gerrymandering.
The mapmakers negated the voices and interests of the people in the 7th District’s mostly urban Monroe County by making the rest of the district very rural. Why else would Washtenaw County’s Ann Arbor not be in the 7th District? Gerrymandering.
Michigan counties engage in gerrymandering too. The map on the left shows District 3 of the Calhoun County Commission.
Why is gerrymandering a problem? What’s the solution?
- The many ways gerrymandering can undermine democracy: Open Democracy.
- The results of gerrymandering: Wired.
- Who draws the maps (in 37 states, it’s the legislature) and when: Common Cause.
- Independent commissions, gubernatorial veto power: BallotPedia.
- Redistricting models: Brennan Center for Justice.
The Sierra Club believes in fair and representative redistricting.
“Shadowy organizations and big polluters,” says this Sierra Club report, “are trying to suppress the vote, especially from communities of color and other minority communities. One way they’re doing this is through gerrymandering, or redrawing electoral districts to establish a political advantage by grouping certain demographics together or blocking them out.”
Three ways you can support Sierra Club’s anti-gerrymandering work:
- Sierra Club has endorsed Jon Hoadley, incumbent candidate for State Representative from Kalamazoo. Representative Hoadley has introduced a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of legislators. So if you’re a Kalamazoo voter, you can support the anti-gerrymendering movement by voting for Hoadley.
- If you’re not a Kalamazoo voter, you can support the anti-gerrymendering movement by contacting your current State Representative and State Senator (listed in the right-hand sidebar) and tell them to support Hoadley’s bill.
- Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group has joined the Michigan Chapter’s campaign promoting a redistricting education survey. You can support the anti-gerrymendering movement by signing the survey online.