By Mike Wilkinson & Riley Beggin, Bridge Magazine
Republicans will keep power in Michigan’s Legislature next year, even though Democrats got more votes statewide and dramatically slashed margins in safe GOP seats, a Bridge Magazine analysis shows.
Although Democrats flipped six House seats (and lost one) and five Senate seats, they couldn’t overcome built-in advantages from political districts drawn by Republican mapmakers in 2011.
But Michigan’s legislative districts are recognized by experts as among the most gerrymandered in the country. By law, the party in control of Lansing after the decennial Census redraws districts – and that’s been Republicans in 2001 and again in 2011.
“The lines were drawn to withstand a significant change in public opinion,” said John McGlennon, a government and public policy professor at William and Mary, a public university in Virginia, and an expert in redistricting.
Just west of Macomb, in suburban Oakland County, Democrats posted some of their best gains in the state, flipping two House and two Senate seats.
Doing so required a big surge: To flip the 12th Senate District, Democrat Rosemary Bayer erased a built-in GOP advantage – the Republican had won the seat by 15 points in 2014. She won by 0.8 percent and fewer than 1,000 votes.
Countywide, voters favored Democrat Gretchen Whitmer over Republican Bill Schuette 57-40 percent. Even so, Democrats only broke even in the House, turning a 9-5 GOP majority to a 7-7 split. Yet three other Oakland County GOP districts remained in Republican hands despite huge swings toward the Democrat.