2001-05-11 Grand Haven Tribune Groups-Race should be considered in redistricting

Groups: Race should be considered in redistricting
Grand Haven Tribune

A group representing Ottawa County minorities is calling for county officials to make sure ethnic groups are represented when commissioner districts are redrawn. Representatives from the Racial Coalition for Justice told members of the Ottawa County Reapportionment Board that they are legally bound to consider minority representation at Thursday evening’s meeting.

“What we’re interested in is that people of color are represented,” said Tino Reyes, a coalition representative. The reapportionment board includes county Clerk Dan Krueger, Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz, Treasurer Mary Richardson, Ottawa County Republican Party Chari Jack Holmes and Ottawa County Democratic Party Chari John C. O’Brien.

The mission of the board is to redraw county commissioner district lines according to the latest census numbers. The board can choose to have 5-21 commissioner districts, as long as the districts follow legally established criteria. The re-districting must be complete by June 9.

Gail Harrison, director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, said a number of groups have come together to form a coalition to follow the re-districting process. The coalition plans to recommend to the board the map which would best represent minorities at the next reapportionment meeting.

A recent United States Supreme Court decision is driving the group’s effort. In the case Hunt v. Cromartie, the court upheld a controversial North Carolina congressional district which some claimed was drawn according to racial make-up only. The decision, according to Harrison, allows race to be one of the factors in the decision-making process of the reapportionment board.

“What it says is that race can be considered in re-districting as long as it is not the controlling or dominant factor,” Harrison said. One 13-commissioner district map proposal, 13b, would have two commissioner districts in the Holland area with significant minority representation. Harrison said it is not important that a minority commissioner be elected from one of these districts but that minorities have a strong voice.

“It appears that map 13b is in our best interest,” Harrison said. The coalition will meet next week to make a final decision about the map proposals which have been made public. The reapportionment board ruled out further proposals for nine-commissioner districts, deciding to focus on 11, 13 and 15 districts. The next meeting for the board is 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15 at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex.