2001-05-16 Grand Haven Tribune Race continues to be an issue for reapportionment

Race continues to be an issue for reapportionment
Grand Haven Tribune

West Olive- Minority representation and a United States Supreme Court decision again factored into discussions about drawing up new county commissioner districts. Ottawa County Corporate Counsel Greg Rappleye said there was a slight impact on the work of the Ottawa County Reapportionment Board form the April 18 Supreme Court decision in the case Hunt v. Cromartie.

“I don’t think it has a tremendous amount of precedential value,” Rappleye said at the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the board at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex. The case involved a controversial North Carolina congressional district, which the plaintiff argued was determined by its racial make-up. The majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer stated that the district was determined along party lines, not racial makeup.

The reapportionment board is charged with drawing up new county commissioner districts according the latest census numbers. Members of the board are now looking at 11, 13 or 15 commissioner districts. The 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
Chair John C. O’Brien.

The board must follow eight statutorily established criteria when drawing up the districts. Those criteria include considering population, the compactness of districts and not making decisions based on political motives. Race is not one of those criteria and the Hunt v. Cromartie decision did not change that. “You can consider the status of minorities but can’t use that as a determining factor,” Rappley said.

Gail Harrison, of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, said the case did have an impact as a precedent. Rappleye then reiterated his position, adding that he did not believe he was in disagreement with Harrison. “The racial makeup can be considered, but it is not one of the criteria,” he said.

Board members said an overlay map of the county’s minority population will be available this week for them to consider. The next meeting of the board is Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex.