Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Powerless North

If you Michiganders have ever experienced the feeling that the political clout in your state is heavily weighted toward southeast Michigan, well, just look at Michigan's district maps. If I were to drop a political marble here in Oscoda County it would start with a creeping southward roll and pick up speed its entire journey until it plunked neatly into the waters of the Detroit River, pulling ever farther to the left the more southward it traveled.

Of Michigan's 110 state House districts, 23 are located in Wayne County, 14 more are either all or in part in Oakland County, and nine more are all or in part of Macomb County. For those keeping record, that is a little less than 42% of Michigan's house districts.

Things are even worse in the Michigan Senate where its three most populous counties provide anchor for all or part of 16 of the state's 38 total Senate districts. That is a little over 42%.

For a bunch of old white guys the Founding Fathers, despite having very slow internet connections, were reasonably astute. When the different colonies were discussing the formation of a new country, each colony greedily protected its own best interests. Heavily populated states demanded power based on total suffrage. Smaller states threatened to spurn the new country if they would only be joining a country in which they would be politically dominated by larger states. Thus was born the "Great Compromise."

However, unlike our nation's Congress, the Michigan legislature was designed with no encumbrance of balancing out the raw powers of large populations with areas politically weakened by small populations, even though some of the sparsely populated areas are much larger.

Let us look at it another way.

Trace a line from the southern border of Iosco Country on Lake Huron all the way across the Lower Peninsula to the southern county line of Manistee County on Lake Michigan. Now, cross out all areas north of that line including the entire Upper Peninsula. Then cross out the counties of Lake, Osceola, Mecosta, Clare, Gladwin and Midland Counties. That entire crossed out area is divided up into four separate Michigan senate districts--exactly half the number of senate districts that are neatly tucked inside Wayne County. In effect, the land area of 614 square miles in Wayne County has twice as much representation as areas that cover over 30,000 square miles of landscape from Mid-Michigan, throughout Northern Michigan, and including the entire Upper Peninsula.

For the record, I have no philosophical problem with there being more power in Detroit and the immediately surrounding area. It would be patently unfair for an area with such a disproportionately large population to be underrepresented in affairs that affect populations. And, frankly, I feel there has been no short changing here. The pain I feel is in the duplicate layering of power in both chambers of the legislature that fails to recognize the importance of land mass and resources. It is this duplication of power in both chambers that creates an undue disproportion. When legislation is considered that affects land and leisure and resources, why should Wayne County and its surrounding counties be able to trump all the wants and desires of those who literally live on and manage the majority of the lands?

Of course, like Mom used to tell me, we have what we have, and we have to play with the cards we are dealt. (No, that couldn't have been Mom--she never approved of cards. It must have been Grandma.)

Anyway, as a whining northerner, I was just kind of wondering if anyone else had noticed.

cross posted at Right Michigan

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