New Oakland County plan reduces number of districts from 21 to 19

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

New boundaries and a reduced number of seats have been set for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners starting with the 2023-24 term.

The Oakland County Apportionment Commission, which is made up of the full Oakland County Board of Commissioners, adopted a new plan Nov. 9 that sets the boundaries and seats for county commission districts.

Democrats currently hold a narrow majority, 11-10, under the current district map. The new county commission district map reduces the number of county districts from 21 to 19.

The plan was approved by a vote of 14-7, which included bipartisan support.

Board chairman David T. Woodward, D-Royal Oak, said the new district map paves the way for more efficient and effective county governance in Oakland County.

Woodward said the new districts are the most equal in population in decades, guarantees minority-majority districts that recognize the diversity of the county and minimizes community breaks.

"This is the first time in our county's history, or at least the last years 30 years, that we've adopted a map with bipartisan support that results in districts being most equal in population, the highest percentage of minority-majority districts and fewest community breaks," Woodward said.

Rocky Raczkowski, chair of Oakland County's Republican party, said no citizen should be happy with the maps, which he said are the result of "partisan gerrymandering at the local level."

Raczkowski took issue with one redrawn district in southeast Oakland County, which he says is now about 1.5 miles wide and 12 miles long.

"It's not serving the people of Oakland County. People need to wake up and hold public officials accountable," Raczkowski said.

Raczkowski said he and others did not file a challenge to the maps because "it would be an uphill battle and the courts would send it back."

Raczkowski said the current 11-10 breakdown of the Democratic majority board will likely end up 12-7 under the new boundaries.

Woodward denied the gerrymandering claim, saying the map had bipartisan support and no challenges were filed.

Woodward said Oakland County is the only county in Michigan where commissioners draw their own district map. In other counties, reapportionment committees include county clerk, treasurer, prosecutors and two party chairs.

​The board's reapportionment ad hoc committee formed on June 17 to determine county commission districts based on final 2020 Census data, county officials said. 

Under state law, new county district boundaries may be challenged in court within 30 days of adoption. No challenge was filed against the new 2023-32 Oakland County Commission district map, county officials said. 

The committee was chaired by commissioner Angela Powell, D-Pontiac, and included members Marcia Gershenson, D-Bloomfield Township; Michael Spisz, R-Oxford, and Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake, as well as Woodward.

“The reapportionment committee worked tirelessly, along with the county’s corporation counsel and plat review teams, to create boundaries that make sense for our residents,” Powell said. “The new plan will save taxpayers money while still providing unparalleled representation for those who live in Oakland County.”

According to state law, the full board of commissioners is responsible for establishing county districts, which are redrawn every 10 years based on Census data.