Who’s to blame for apportionment deadline confusion?

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Confusion over which of two dates the clock started ticking for the 60-day deadline to redraw Livingston County’s political lines prompted the Livingston County Apportionment Commission — tasked with the redistricting — to ask the Michigan Court of Appeals on Sept. 27 to extend the deadline for it to finish its work until Nov. 15.

According to state law, counties have 60 days from the time full population counts are released to draw commission seats. The confusion over which date those 60 days begin on centers on the U.S. Census Bureau first releasing raw data on Aug. 12, with a final “user-friendly” version on Sept. 16; the two releases mean Michigan’s county clerks consider Oct. 11 as their deadline, while the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections considers it to be Nov. 29.

Apportionment Commissions consist of the county clerk, treasurer, prosecutor and the chairpersons of the county Democratic and Republican parties.

Meghan Reckling, chairperson of the Livingston County Republican Party, who is also exploring a run for Michigan Secretary of State, said the notion that there is no agreement on the timelines is “absurd.”

“The failure by the Secretary of State (Jocelyn Benson) and the Attorney General (Dana Nessel) with clear guidance is a dereliction of duty,” Reckling said. “It has now forced us to seek an extension in order to clarify our time frame moving forward.

“Local public servants across the state of Michigan are simply looking for clarity and certainty in order to do their jobs. How Benson and Nessel failed to address this serious aspect of the local redistricting process is mind-boggling, to say the least.”

While Reckling places blame for the confusion on the state, Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, points a finger toward Washington, D.C.

“Had the Trump administration not botched the conduct of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau would have met its deadline earlier in the year, and we would have been done with our apportionment work months ago,” Daubenmier said. “Instead of making sure the census work was properly staffed and funded, Trump obstructed its work at every turn with wrangling over whether to count all residents or exclude immigrations.”

It was this wrangling that pushed the results later and later, and created confusion over the timeline, Daubenmier said.

This is the first time in Michigan that an independent Citizens Commission is drawing new district lines based on the latest Census data.

Reckling made the motion to ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to provide Livingston County’s Apportionment Commission an extension deadline until Nov. 15. The Commission will also ask the court to consider its petition immediately, as well as waive the court fees.

The Livingston County Apportionment Commission will next meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

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