By Michelle Hazekamp
July 23, 2021
Do you care about district lines, where your community lies with in them or commissions that change them every ten years? You should!
What is Redistricting and Apportionment?
Redistricting is the revising of geographic boundaries of areas from which people elect representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, a state legislature, a county or city council, school board, etc.
Apportionment is the process of determining the number of representatives to which each state is entitled in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the decennial census.
How Does Redistricting effect you?
Apportionment Commissions come around every 10 years right after the U.S. Census results come out. Counties then get to change district lines based on the new census bureau numbers. This determines how our local school boards, city council, state legislative and congressional districts are drawn. More importantly, It effects how our interests are being heard and represented by our elected officials, the voting strength of our communities and where your tax dollars go. It also effects the number of county commissioners we can have.
Muskegon County Population; 2010 and Now
2010 - Population 172, 188
2020 - Population 173,500
Muskegon County has seen a 0.92% growth rate between the 2010 and 2019 Census and is the 13th largest county in the state of Michigan. Muskegon County is allowed by law, based on current population to have as many as 21 county commission districts, with a minimum of five. MCL46.401. The apportionment is required to be completed with in 60 days following the publication of the latest United States Dicennial Census figures, MCL 46.401, which is expected as early as the beginning of August.
The Downsizing of County Commissioners
Commissioner Zach Lahring speaking at a Muskegon County Commission meeting | Mlive.com
Ten years ago, during the last apportionment commission, it was decided to downsize county commissioners from eleven to nine. District lines were expanded, creating an unbalance of constituent representation and placed more responsibility onto the county commissioners. The reason; to save the county $800,000 per year.
Make no mistake, $800,000 is a lot of money and saving any amount is a top priority! But, Muskegon County has had three lawsuits against them in recent years. Is the increased work load placed upon our nine commissioners a cause for these lawsuits? Are mistakes being made because there is too much responsibility and too little time? Has lowering the number of commissioners really saved us money or instead, has it set us up for chaos?
People expressed concern that the commissioners may be overwhelmed with all the duties required of them, and thus, the reason for so many lawsuits.
Is Nine County Commissioners Enough?
Public comment at the meeting Wednesday night expressed the need to go back to eleven commissioners. According to the latest census from 2020, Muskegon County can have up to but no more than 21 commission districts. The perfect number seemed to reside with eleven, as most agreed more might be too many and nine is not enough. People expressed concern that the commissioners may be overwhelmed with all the duties required of them, and thus, the reason for so many lawsuits. A county commissioner position is part time and most of the commissioners also have full time careers. County commissioners are also required to sit on committees and meetings seem to be endless. Two current county commissioners were there for public comment as well, expressing they do feel overwhelmed at times and have little time to listen to the needs of their constituents.
Low Concern for Re-districting our Communities
Wednesday, July 21st was the last of three apportionment meetings in Muskegon County for the 10 year re-evaluation. These meetings were conveniently held during evening hours at three different locations through out Muskegon County on three different dates in hopes to accommodate all or most residents; Fruitport Charter Township Hall June 23rd, Egelston Township Hall July 14th, and Laketon Township Hall July 21st. Wednesday evenings meeting had less than 20 county residents show up for public comment.
What's worse, only two out of the five commission members were there to head up the meeting! Tony Moulatsiotis, Muskegon County Treasurer and Chris Kaijala, Muskegon County Republican Apportionment Member were there to listen to public concern and recommendations. Nancy A. Waters, Muskegon County Clerk was a no show. D.J. Hilson, Muskegon County Prosecutor had a speaking engagement in Ann Arbor, which he chose to not re-schedule. Makes you wonder where their priorities lie! Ryan Bennet, Muskegon County Democratic Party Chair was excused due to the tragic death of his father. Our condolences and prayers go out to Mr. Bennet and his family.
Finalizing the Apportionment
As the committee finalizes the apportionment for Muskegon County, multiple re-districting maps will be drawn up for all to view both online and at another meeting that will be scheduled sometime in August. Public comment at this future meeting will be anticipated for making the choice on which map better suits the needs of Muskegon County and residents.
Dates will be posted on the Muskegon County Republican Website when available at the link below.
Your voice can make a difference! Show up and get involved!
For updates on local events and how to get involved, click the link below!
2020 Apportionment Report
Apportionment and Redistricting Following the 2020 Census
Muskegon County Apportionment Committee
United States Census Bureau Quick Facts
World Population Reviews
Michelle Hazekamp is a Muskegon County business owner and a Delegate for the Muskegon County Republican Party. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a bachelorette in Science and a minor in History. You can contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org