Apportionment Commission approves new county district map

GENESEE COUNTY — Significant changes are about to be made to Genesee County’s district commissioner map, including new boundary lines and a shifting of several townships into different districts.

Last Thursday, the Genesee County Apportionment Commission voted 4-1 to adopt a redrawn map of the county’s nine districts. The map, which was proposed by Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry, received opposition from Genesee County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Smith but was accepted by Genesee County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ashley Prew and three elected Democrats on the commission— Cherry, Genesee County Clerk John Gleason and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.

Cherry and Gleason said that the new map will create more competitive districts and properly account for population changes in the county, while Leyton said that the Cherry map ensures that two of the nine districts will continue to have a majority of Black residents.

“Most important to me, the map preserves two African-American majority districts,” Leyton said. “I feel like it’s important that we deal them a fair hand.”

Smith, who proposed his own map with redrawn district lines, said that the new district template breaks up several “communities of interest” inside the county, such as moving the City of Davison and Davison Township into separate districts and shifting Grand Blanc Township out of District 5 away from the City of Grand Blanc into a newly reconfigured District 4 with Mundy Township.

Under the changes made with the Cherry map, Davison Township will be shifted into District 3, while Davison and Richfield Township will remain in District 9. Flushing Township and the City of Flushing are also moving out of District 7 into District 8 with Clayton Township and portions of Flint Township.

The latter change could force District 7 Commissioner Meredith Davis (R-Flushing Township) to run for the District 8 seat, which is currently held by Commissioner Debra Newman (D-Swartz Creek). Davis and Newman, who are both first-term commissioners, may have to face off in 2022 if both choose to run for re-election.

Additionally, Gaines Township will be moved from District 8 to District 6, and the City of Flint will be represented in three districts instead of four.

Several public speakers at the Apportionment Commission meeting took issue with the Cherry map, including Grand Blanc Township Clerk Dave Robertson. Robertson, formerly a county commissioner and Republican state senator, said that the Cherry map is “largely incoherent” and skews toward political partisanship.

“This map (the Cherry map) breaks numerous municipal boundaries,” he said. “It links southern Grand Blanc with southern Flint through Mundy Township. It puts Davison City, which is entirely contained within Davison Township, in one district, and the lion’s share of the township in another district.

“The one thing that ties these districts together (in Cherry’s map) is that the inner suburbs are linked with the outer suburbs in order to overwhelm the Republican behavioral tendencies of those outer suburbs and make it more likely that eight Democrats will be elected to the County Board of Commissioners,” Robertson added.

Other speakers supported the Cherry map and criticized Smith’s plan, including La Cracha Handy—a Flint Township resident and Carman-Ainsworth School Board trustee. Handy said that Smith’s map would have placed Flint voters at a disadvantage by isolating the city’s representation into just two districts.

“Like a can of sardines, Mr. Smith’s map will pack Flint into as few districts as possible,” she said. “This will lead to fewer Flint commissioners and likely fewer Black commissioners. Adopting Mr. Smith’s map would disenfranchise the votes of residents in the City of Flint, giving Genesee County a small amount of minority representation.”

As proposed, Smith’s map would have shifted District 4 from its traditional position south of Flint to north of Flint, encompassing an area including Genesee and Mt. Morris townships. It would have also kept Davison and Davison Township in the same districts.

Although the Cherry map has been adopted at the county level, it will need to meet with final approval from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.

Commissioner districts are modified every 10 years after the results of the U.S. Census. Under state law, districts must be redrawn to be “as nearly of equal population as practicable.”

Each of the nine districts in the redrawn county map will have roughly 45,000 residents.