The decision late Monday night by the Michigan Supreme Court in the Oakland County redistricting case proves two things: that down ballot, allegedly nonpartisan races have severe consequences and the so-called activist judges the right loves to rail about actually reside on the right.
At 7:30 p.m. last night, the Republican majority on Supreme Court ruled on a 4-3 vote that a hasty approved law in the Michigan Legislature late last year that changes the way Oakland County – and only Oakland County – redraws the boundary lines for its county commissioners is constitutional.
The Chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party brought the suit, and the Circuit Court, first, and then the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, saying the law was unconstitutional because it was a local act effecting only one county. A local act requires a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate, and this bill did not.
The GOP majority on the court twisted itself into a pretzel to rule in favor of Oakland County GOP boss Brooks Patterson, saying it may only apply to Oakland County immediately, but that over time the new law could – that’s could – apply to any county that meets the population requirements.
In other counties, the district lines are redrawn every decade based on new Census data. A bipartisan panel consisting of the chair of the two major political parties, the county Treasurer and the county Prosecutor draw the boundaries. The Republicans have always had a majority on that panel, but recent election wins by Democrats put them in charge for the first time.
Republicans were afraid they would lose their majority on the Board of Commissioners, so in another case of changing the rules of the game because they don’t like the outcome, in a move Republicans have become famous for this past year, they lobbied hard to get the leaders in the House and Senate to push a bill that allowed the Republicans on the Board of Commissioners to draw the district boundaries.
The GOP tried to float House Bill 5187 as a cost-saving measure because it cut the number of board seats from 25 to 21. However, Frank Houston, chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party, obtained e-mails under a Freedom of Information (FOIA) between Oakland County officials, and emails between Oakland County State Representatives Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, and Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake, made it clear that was just the excuse they were looking for to make sure the Republicans maintained control of the board.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer called the Republican court out on their corrupt decision to ignore the law to help out their cronies in the Legislature and the Oakland County Board.
“Today, the Michigan Supreme Court has shown it is on the side of political corruption and not the rule of law,” he said. “Two other lower courts have already declared this law unconstitutional, yet Republicans on the Supreme Court chose to ignore the law and the facts in order to permit Republican corruption.”
It’s unclear if the Democrats will appeal to the federal courts, but the good news is two of the corrupt justices are up for re-election in November.
“Our Justices should be standing up for the Constitution instead of promoting corruption,” Brewer said. “Voters will not forget this decision and will hold this Court accountable this November. Justices Markman and Zahra have once again proven they are nothing more than puppets of special interests.”