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Gerrymandered: New Muskegon County Commissioner Lines Drawn in Favor of Democrat Party

By Aaron Young and Chris Kaijala

November 14, 2021


What Happened?

The Muskegon County Apportionment Commission met last Monday, November 8. and took the final vote to redistrict commissioner lines. These will be our new county districts for the next ten years, and major changes have been made. The County districts were downsized from nine to seven and this change eliminates two county commissioner positions.

Why Only Seven Commissioners?

You may be wondering, what was the reason for the change? Did the public push for this change? The approved plan is the creation of the Democratic Party Chair Ryan Bennett. Mr. Bennett argued that Kent County Commissioners are representing more people per commissioner than here in Muskegon County and it therefore makes sense to decrease the number of commissioners in Muskegon. Mr. Bennet suggested we should go to five commissioners by this reasoning, but recommended seven. The County Treasurer, Nancy Waters, who is also a commission member had boasted that they saved the County about $800,000 over the last 10 years by reducing the number of districts from eleven to nine back in 2010. No evidence to support this figure was ever presented and based on these two assumptions, the Commission voted 4 to 1 to adopt the plan (Plan 7-4-1).

A Decision Against the Will of the People

This vote went against the vast majority of the public comment, which was consistently 2 to 1 in favor of nine or eleven commissioner districts. The gallery was full on November 8 and the public comments were vastly in favor of nine or more commissioner districts. However, these desires fell on deaf ears except for one commission member, Chris Kaijala.

Strong Democrat Bias on the Apportionment Commission

There were problems with the commission from the beginning. The commission was made up of two partisan members, Chris Kaijala representing the Republican Party, and Ryan Bennett Chairman of the Democrat party, and three “non-partisan” representatives, Nancy Waters (county clerk), Tony Moulatsiotis (county treasurer) and D.J. Hilson (county prosecutor). The three non-partisan members are all democrats and displayed a partisan attitude during the final discussion and vote. They successfully solidified their power on county politics by gerrymandering four districts in their favor and squeeze the majority of the county into three districts. It was sad to see as they violated the rules of the very legislation that was passed to make redistricting non-partial. Plan 9-6 was set as an example of what proper redistricting would look like, but these were not followed in Plan 7-4-1.

No Lack of Effort on the Part of Republicans

Plan 7-4 was submitted by the Democrat Chairman, Mr. Bennett and Plan 9-5 was submitted by the Republican member, Mr. Kaijala, who tried to get a vote on any nine district plan, even one other than his own. No other member would second the motion. The silence was deafening as the other members refused to even take a vote on any of the nine district plans. Then Mr. Bennett motioned for plan 7-4-1 and it was seconded. The plan was adopted by a 4 to 1 vote, despite a former Democrat Commissioner and overwhelming public comment desiring nine or more commissioners.

Hope Despite the Uproar

The gallery started to erupt after the vote.

It appears to us that the Democrat Party is fearful of losing power in the Commission after years of poor performance, and the outcome of the November 2020 election where they lost four seats. But don't be despaired, there is still a chance for us, even with only seven districts, because conservative principles won nearly 50% of the vote in 2020!


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