THE BIG IDEA: Michigan Republicans in 2011 had a clear mission: to ensure GOP majorities by drawing partisan election maps. Emails recently discovered in a lawsuit brought in part by a group of Democratic voters, which alleges the maps Republicans drew were unconstitutional, revealed startling details of their attempts to minimize Democratic power in the purple state. One GOP staffer boasted about cramming “Dem garbage” into four of the five congressional districts that Democrats control today. Another email compared the shape of one district to an obscene gesture. “Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” the author wrote, referring to the longtime Democratic congressman. “I love it.”
The gambit appears to have worked: Republicans today maintain a tight grasp on virtually all levers of power in the state. Though President Trump carried the Wolverine State by only 0.2 percent in 2016, Michigan Republicans enjoy a 9-to-5 advantage in Congress and a 63-to-47 advantage in the state House.
Throughout American history, both parties have routinely used reapportionment to consolidate their power. Republicans made major gains in the tea party wave of 2010 because of backlash to Barack Obama’s first two years in office, which put them in the driver’s seat to draw the maps for the rest of the decade across several swing states. That’s helped the GOP to maintain a solid House majority and control two-thirds of the nation’s state legislative chambers. Last November, Virginia Republicans managed to narrowly hold on to their majority in the House of Delegates despite Democrats beating their GOP opponents by a 10-point margin across all 100 House districts. Some Democratic lawmakers and strategists blamed the gap on an allegedly gerrymandered map.
Read More: Washington Post, August 20, 2018