As Primary Approaches, Rochester Hills is Redistricted

The three candidates running for the District 2 seat on Rochester Hills City Council and several thousand voters just had their districts changed.

Census information arrived earlier than usual this year, putting the normal redistricting that follows it smack in the middle of election season. In order to balance the city’s four council districts and all of its precincts, as required by law, council voted 4-2 Monday to approve a redistricting plan drawn up by City Clerk Jane Leslie.

But the decision was controversial. Councilmen James Rosen and Ravi Yalamanchi opposed the measure (Councilman Vern Pixley was absent).  Yalamanchi said he fears voters will be confused and, possibly, disenfranchised. Rosen said he would like more time to work on the district boundaries, which are not as compact as he would like them to be.

Rosen and Councilmen Vern Pixley and Mike Webber, the city’s three at-large councilmen, met as a committee with Leslie on the redistricting. The committee majority recommended that council not redistrict prior to this year’s elections.

“I can’t support moving ahead,” Rosen said. “I think it’s going to disenfranchise or penalize folks, depending on what area they’re in.”

Webber disagreed. “I don’t really see where we’re going to get a whole lot more data,” he said. “The census is going remain the same. We know that we’re going to have to shift the districts.” He acknowledged, however, that “There would have to be a lot of voter education that would have to be done.”

Supporters of immediate redistricting also argued that voters have a right to vote for the person who will represent them for the next four years. Waiting until after the election would eliminate that possibility for some 4,800 voters, Council President Greg Hooper said. He said his district, District 3, is currently the largest district and will see the biggest change, some 3,000 voters.

None of the candidates is being displaced by the redistricting plan. But Laurie Puscas, one of three candidates for District 2, said their campaigns will be affected.

“To change something like this once the filings have been made, I think that creates a great hardship on candidates who are running in a certain district,” she said. “Moneys have been spent. … We’ve got absentee ballots coming out in just a few weeks.”

Councilman Nathan Klomp said state law and the city charter require the city to act now.

“This was not set up to protect the politician or the person running for office. It was set up to protect the population,” he said.

Any resident may challenge the redistricting in court within 30 days.

Council also approved new precinct boundaries Monday. Two new precincts have been added and some existing precincts have had their boundaries adjusted.

The process of aligning precincts and districts is something like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Precincts and districts must have equalized numbers of voters, and precincts must have recognizable boundaries, such as roads.

Precincts may not be split among two districts. Since the new state and congressional districts have not yet been set, they could force another look at the redistricting plan this fall.  Leslie said, however, that she expects the city to remain entirely within one congressional district, as it is now.

Hooper said he was satisfied that the redistricting plan came out of a nonpolitical process and is as good as it can be.

“I guess what strikes me is the process has really developed on its own,” he said. “If council did not act on this map, what other map could they act on and it not be political?”

For a look at the new map of precincts and council districts, go to http://roch.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=131819&GUID=4EB01E8D-CB24-4F65-B612-5858CDAF2B75.

By Annette Kingsbury

Comments

  1. City Charter Section 7.3 – Council Districts There shall be four (4) Districts, the boundaries of which are delineated on the map in the Appendix to this Charter. Following each official United States Census, District boundaries shall be redrawn by the Council as necessary to maintain the population balance between the Districts.

    It’s a shame this was handled so poorly

    What took place is within the guidelines of our city charter; but even with the good intent and hard work on Jane Leslie City Clerk Rochester Hills part this decision could have been done better. I have been told we now will be stuck with this new City Council district map for the next 10 years. Though it is not spelled out in our Charter the intent of four Council Districts was to also represent the four quadrants of the City; City Council District 1 the northwest, City Council District 2 the northeast, City Council District 3 the southwest and City Council District 4 the southeast, plus be equal in population. If we were under great preasure to get this done why was the May 16th City Council meeting canceled… President Hooper you set the meetings; why did this important discussion start then? Why does City Council district 1 transverse the entire west side of town from Dutton all the way to South Boulevard… why new City Council district 4 voters who live behind Crittenton Hospital Medical Center have to drive past three different polling locations to vote? Why was this the last City Council agenda item on June 6th President Hooper? We as a community should have, could have done a much better map… Why does this remind me of typical Rochester Hills Politics; rush thru, late night, no citizen input, poor legislation.

    Scot Beaton

  2. Rochester Resident says

    Why is it that this City Council can make the simplest things so difficult. We are the only city I could find redistricting in the middle of an election. They consistently over-rule the very commissions they set up…What a joke.

    Hopefully voters will vote for change in this years election.

    Mr Mayor:

    If you are going to set up a slate to rubber stamp your agenda, couldnt you at least get a smarter crew.

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