JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson City Council approved a new ward map meaning some big changes for upcoming elections. One of those changed will have big ramifications for one city elected official.
The city had to change its ward map to comply with most recent U.S. Census data and Jackson County Commission boundaries. The process is done every ten years.
The city of Jackson did see a drop in population by just under 1,900 people going from 33,191 people in 2010 to 31,309 people in 2020.
Wards one through five lost residents while ward six increased 106 people.
The most recent maps proposed and adopted in 2012 had a population deviation of eight percent. According to city officials, that number should be closer to five percent.
Had maps not been redrawn this year, the deviation would have jumped to 17 percent.
To change this, the election commission was tasked with drawing a new ward map to ensure proper representation of each voter.
City charter requires wards to be contiguous, compact and of equal population as practicable. Jackson’s municipal code requires the city to have six wards.
The chosen map impacted 20 percent of the city’s population.
In the March 22 meeting, Murray said not all of the people impacted are registered voters. It will decrease the total precincts by two from 16 to 14.
City council voted in favor of one of two presented maps. The wards range from 5,110 to 5,288 residents meeting the equal population requirement.
The boundaries were also nudged east to west reflecting the change in population. Ward one saw no changes.
But, not all council members were in favor. The new map passed five to two with Laura Dwyer Schlecte and Arlene Robinson voting no.
Schlecte, who represents ward four, was drawn out of her area which means she won’t be able to run in 2023 unless she moves.
“I think it was strategically done the way it was,” Schlecte said. “I don’t think any of our appointed officials had anything to do with it. I don’t think our city council members had anything to do with it. I think it was party politics purely.”
The election commission is supposed to be comprised of five members which includes the city clerk, city attorney, city assessor and two city residents.
But, right now, just one resident is serving on the commission. It's Conner Wood, who is also the chair of the Jackson County Democratic Committee.
“If we’re going to have a strong democrat on there, we should be making sure there’s a strong republican on the other side,” she said.
Schlecte voted against him when he was being voted into the role.
“I voted against him for the fact that I knew he was a strong democratic strategist. I didn’t think that was the place to have one on an election committee, but more importantly I didn’t know that he was going to be a part of the drawing of the lines. I thought it had to with the elections if there was a problem at the day of voting,” she said.
Schlecte says she wants council to evaluate how the commission is structured.
“I think we have to as a council representing the constituents is non-partisan. I think we have to step back and look at the elections committee. How do we change that ordinance so that committee is more balanced?,” she said.
Wood said he only provided his experience making sure the new wards were compliant. He said he can’t speak on behalf of the election commission but they did not consider partisan data in mapping.
“People should know I am one person out five on the election commission and the commission has only the ability to recommend drafts to council,” he said. “We unanimously recommended two options to city council and the decision to pick the map was council’s. If councilmember Schlecte has an issue with the new map that council chose, her issue is with her colleagues and not with me. All I did was volunteer my time and experience to make the maps as compliant with the law as possible.”
As for the second city resident on the commission, there currently isn’t one. Schlecte said the second resident member didn’t qualify for the position but did not elaborate on why.
City officials said they felt four people was enough to conduct business.
In the meantime, Schlecte says she will conduct business as usual until her seat is up for election which will take place next year.
“I will just push up my sleeves and do exactly that continue to do what I do, I’m not going to wilt away and I’m going to make sure my ward is taken care of along with the rest of the whole community,” she said.
Information will be mailed out to impacted residents before the Aug. 2 primary election to let you know what your ward number and where you can vote in-person will be, if it changed.
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