Lapeer and St. Clair counties recently adopted new maps that define district boundaries for county commissioners. In St. Clair County, there were no changes to the districts that encompass Lynn, Mussey and Berlin townships and the village of Capac. In Lapeer County, the redrawn lines will impact a significant number of residents in the Tri-City area. Currently Imlay City, Almont and their townships are paired together in one district but, starting in 2023, Almont and Dryden will share a commissioner and Imlay City, Imlay Township will comprise an entirely new district with part of Attica and all of Arcadia township. No one currently on the board of commissioners resides in what will be the new District 5 so that means there will be at least one new face on the county board in one year’s time.
Redistricting must be done every ten years and those officials responsible for creating the voting districts must utilize updated census numbers to draw up those maps. Lapeer County’s apportionment commission was tasked with creating districts with a target population of 12,524. In many instances, that essentially dictates how the lines can be reasonably drawn.
At the county level, redistricting typically has less of an impact on the average voter than when districts are redrawn for state and federal elections. If anything, the new maps potentially limit who can or can’t seek a seat on the board. Incumbents are rarely challenged—especially from within their own party—and there’s no term limits so new faces only typically appear when a commissioner steps down or in this case, when district lines are adjusted.
Redistricting isn’t the only change coming for candidates and voters. A pair of bills are working their way through the Michigan Senate that would change county commission terms from two to four years. If signed into law, the bills would go into effect beginning with the 2024 presidential election cycle. Michigan is currently just one of five states that grants commissioners two-year terms and some lawmakers and the Michigan Association of Counties argue that commissioners’ scope of duties has increased to a level that requires sufficient time to master before the next election cycle begins. Additionally, moving to four-year terms that align with other county and township officials’ terms can help make more consistent policies for communities, one of the bills’s sponsors has said.
Again, for the average voter, a change in county commission terms won’t mean much but if proponents of the bill are correct and such a shift could lead to more efficient and consistent governance, then we’ll all benefit.