Emails from GOP strategists suggest intent to gerrymander Michigan districts

Posted at 9:41 PM, Jul 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 23:14:49-04

LANSING, Mich.-- Several reports have surfaced suggesting Republicans may have gerrymandered districts in Michigan to stay in power back in 2011.

Emails from Republican strategists point to potential corrupt practices with the intent to redraw district lines to favor Republicans. Those emails are being used as evidence in a federal lawsuit by the League of Women Votes of Michigan and 11 Michigan voters against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who is ultimately responsible for the conduct of Michigan elections.

One of the emails is from May 2011 by Republican strategist Robert LaBrant, who writes in part, "The Kildee district ended up with too much pop." LaBrant also writes, "We've spent a lot of time providing options to ensure we have a solid 9-5 delegation in 2012 and beyond."

LaBrant was paid by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce while consulting Republicans who were redrawing district lines in 2011.

The lawsuit pending against Secretary Johnson alleges that district lines were drawn to intentionally marginalize Democratic voters and dilute their votes.

According to the Associated Press, in 2011, Jack Daly told others that he wants to "cram ALL of the Dem garbage" into four districts in southeastern Michigan. Daly at the time was chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter, a Livonia Republican.

Included in the emails is Republican strategist Jeff Timmer, who in March argued at the Michigan Solutions Summit that the ballot measure to implement an independent 13-person panel in charge of redistricting would only make things worse.

“We’re gonna find that there’s more politics, more bare knuckles politics involved in the redistricting process if this were to pass than what has happened before," Timmer said during the summit. “The intent to fix problems never does and it exacerbates the problems they’re attempting to fix and this is a clear example of that.”

FOX 17 reached out to the Michigan GOP for comment but their representative says because none of the people in the emails directly worked for them at the time, they cannot comment on this story.

According to LaBrant's LinkedIn page, he still does consulting work.

“I hate to say it’s not a surprise. We knew this was going on a long time ago that Republicans were cheating the system," Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party Brandon Dillon tells FOX 17. “They drew maps that virtually ensure that they stay in power in the State House and State Senate even though statewide, Democrats were getting a larger share of the votes.”

Redistricting only happens once every 10 years after the census.

In November, Michigan voters will likely be deciding on whether or not to implement that 13-person panel meant to prevent any one party from having a disproportional advantage. That ballot measure has already been approved by Secretary Johnson but the Michigan Supreme court is currently hearing a challenge on the measure by a group affiliated with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.