GOP submits redistricting plan

May 10, 2011
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As expected, the Kent County Republican Party turned in its redistricting plan to the Kent County Apportionment Commission last week. At the same time, the Kent County Democratic Party presented a revised version of the plan it submitted two weeks ago.

Both plans are available for public inspection each weekday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Kent County Clerk’s Office, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, until May 17 at 4 p.m., when the apportionment commission will hold a public hearing on both submissions.

“That will be the sole purpose of that meeting,” said Kenneth Parrish, Kent County Treasurer who chairs the five-member commission, of taking public comment. The hearing will be held in Room 313 of the Kent County Administration Building.

The GOP plan keeps the county divided into 19 districts, has 10 splits and features one district that contains a majority of minorities.

“We followed the letter of the law. We tried to keep the splits to a minimum, and we created a majority minority district,” said Sam Moore, chairman of the Kent County Republican Party. Moore also sits on the apportionment commission and submitted the GOP plan.

The revised Democratic plan was submitted by party chairman Jim Rinck, also a commission member. He said the changes made to the original plan were minimal. The plan also keeps 19 districts in the county, has 14 splits and features one district with a Hispanic majority and one with an African-American majority. The revised version combined two Grand Rapids precincts into one, each with roughly 150 voters. Both were in the same city ward.

“There isn’t anything that I think is terribly different,” said Rinck.

Only commission members can submit redistricting plans, and the deadline for submissions has passed. Both plans were adjusted last week because the population data contained on the disk provided by the U.S. Census Bureau had the city of Grand Rapids with 100 voting precincts. About 18 months ago, however, the city consolidated its precinct system into 83. In addition, the city of Wyoming split a precinct into two, and that change also wasn’t represented on the Census Bureau disk.

“I think we’re all on the same page,” said Moore. Both Moore and Rinck wanted to make certain that the population data matched up with the precinct borders, and Grand Rapids City Clerk Lauri Parks seemed satisfied with the commission’s solution to adjust the population data to match the precincts.

“I would say that the plans are subject to adjustment before our public hearing on the 17th,” said Parrish. “We will hold the public hearing where I believe tweaking can occur,” said Mary Hollinrake, Kent County Clerk and Register of Deeds and commission secretary.

Former Kent County Commissioner Bob Synk was the only person who addressed the commission last week. Synk told commissioners that their duty was to be fair to the voters and give them the best representation they could when they choose a plan May 19, telling them to put aside their party affiliations and preferences. Synk is a Democrat and four of the five commissioners are Republicans.

“I would ask you to choose the map that gives the best representation to minority voters and follows existing borders,” said Synk, a resident of southeast Grand Rapids who lost in the November election. Synk also said that under the revised Democratic plan he would be in a new district, one that would include East Grand Rapids, and he wouldn’t be able to run for a seat on the county commission. “But that’s OK,” he said.

There has been an ongoing discussion about reducing the number of districts in the county from 19 to 17. Doing so would also lower the number of commissioners to 17. But both plans keep the number of districts at the current level.

“We do not need to resolve that at this point,” said Parrish.

The reapportionment process is necessary because the county’s population rose from 574,335 in 2000 to 602,622 in 2010.

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