How Gerrymandering in Michigan Protects the GOP

In 2010, Republicans rode the Tea Party movement into power in the state of Michigan, giving them full control over the redistricting process. The new districts they produced were almost textbook gerrymandering and the result has been exactly what they wanted — Republicans keep their majorities in both state and federal elections while losing the popular vote. The results of last week’s election couldn’t be more clear:

State House

1,536,711 (51.2%) total votes cast for state House Democratic candidates that resulted in 47 Democratic House seats (43%)

1,464,983 (48.8%) total votes for state House Republican candidates result in 63 Republican House seats (57%)

State Senate

1,483,938 (49.3%) total votes for state Senate Democratic candidates result in 11 Democratic Senate seats (29%)

1,528,393 (50.7%) total votes for state Senate Republican candidates result in 27 Republican Senate seats (71%)

U.S. Congress

1,506,455 (49.1%) total votes for Democratic congressional candidates result in 5 Democratic congressional seats (36%)

1,458,264 (47.6%) total votes for Republican congressional candidates result in 9 Republican congressional seats (64%)

So, the GOP controls the state House, 63-47, when the outcome with fairly-drawn districts should have been 56-54, with the Democrats in charge.

The Republicans have a 27-11 supermajority in the state Senate but in reality the split should be 19-19. Obviously, the vote totals indicate a 20-18 edge for the GOP was in the cards if the districts were equal, but that’s a far cry from 27-11, which gives the Republicans 71 percent of the seats.

And the GOP has a substantial 9-5 margin in their favor among Michigan’s congressional delegation, but the Democrats actually garnered more votes on Election Night and the House seats should be evenly divided, 7-7.

It doesn’t get any more obvious than that.

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  • Modusoperandi

    Sure, it looks bad when you go by the numbers. So don’t use numbers, like a Ryan Budget, but for elections.

  • tuibguy

    I have never understood legislatures drawing the maps. it’s always a conflict of interest

  • busterggi

    Its not matter f using the numbers, its a matter of slectingow to use the numbers so that 3 D’s = 1 R.

  • howardhershey

    That is also largely the result of Democratic votes being concentrated into urban ‘ghettos’. If districts were to be drawn to increase competitiveness, you would have many more districts that were a mix of rural, suburban, and urban rather than ones that were only urban, only suburban, or only rural. Might not be a bad thing, but likely such redistricting only could occur in states where citizen referenda are possible. And doing this would go against geographic compactness and communities of interest, which are also claimed goals of legislative districts.

  • jaybee

    In Michigan it seems like a Democrat’s vote is worth only 3/5ths a white man’s Republican’s vote.

  • robertfaber

    Apparently, in Michigan, state senate districts aren’t even set up to give each district an equal share of the population, according to this chart:

    State senate districts range in 2010 census population from 188,000 to 306,000. This means some districts have 62% more people in them but only get the 1 representative. Now, looking at districts 1-5, which have fewer people per district that the average, you’d think that the lower populations would give them more power per capita, but then you look at racial composition and see that the GOP was just being “generous” packing more than half the state’s black population into 5 of 38 districts.

  • lpetrich

    Why isn’t anyone ever considering proportional representation? Seriously. Multi-member districts are less vulnerable to gerrymandering than single-member ones. Especially a multi-member one that’s the entire legislature.


    I’ve checked on the Economist’s Democracy Index and Wikipedia’s list of voting systems and government types, and most of the top scorers use proportional representation or some semi-proportional system in their lower houses of legislature. The top-scoring first-past-the-post users are Canada at #8, the UK at #16, and the US at #21 (2012 DI ranking). I’ve also found that most of the top scorers use a parliamentary system with a ceremonial head of state, either a president or a monarch.