Muskegon City Commission Approves Reorganization of Wards and Precincts; Changes To Take Effect After February Primaries

Andrew Trzaska | January 24, 2012

Because of a need to inform citizens of changes, the City of Muskegon will wait to officially change its ward voting precincts until after the state’s primaries on February 28.

In a unanimous vote, Muskegon’s City Commission approved a request recommended by the city’s Election Commission to redraw the boundaries of its precincts, set to take effect with the countywide primaries in August.

Based on statistics from the 2010 Census, the city’s population has shifted around within its borders, some wards have gained many residents and some have lost many residents.

An example found in documents obtained from the city: the current precinct 9 has 481 more registered voters than the median precinct; precinct 14 has 723 less voters than the median district, meaning there is a total imbalance of 1204 people between the two.  The City of Muskegon used the Muskegon County’s Equalization Department’s special mapping technology to even out these numbers and attempt to make them closer match the county’s new, reduced number of commission districts.

City Clerk Ann Marie Cummings noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the new plan reduces “split” precincts, where a border between two of the city’s four wards runs right down the middle of a precinct.  Reorganizing precincts will also give each city commissioner a nearly equal-sized ward to represent.

Tuesday’s vote is only the first step in the process, which began back in May of 2011; the city must then submit their precinct plan to the state for review before they are locked in.

Cummings noted that the city is required to inform its approximately 26,000 registered voters of the changes. The City Clerk’s office must also issue new voter registration cards.

The city clerk indicated that an effort to rush this process before next month’s vote would create confusion.

The first voting date where the new precinct map will be in effect will be the county’s August primaries.

Some notable items in the new precinct plan:

  • Instead of 13 precincts, there will now be 14.
  • Most of the city’s precinct numbers will change. Generally the same set of buildings, primarily schools and public buildings like fire stations, will continue to be used, but as precinct lines change, this may change where you vote.
  • If you live within the rectangle of blocks bordered by Glade to the west, Keating to the south, Creston to the east and Southern to the north, chances are your precinct will change.
  • Portions of Jackson Hill and Angell neighbordhoods would move from Ward 2 (Willie German’s ward) to Ward 1 (Eric Hood’s ward).
  • Generally, if you voted at McLaughlin School in recent elections, you will vote at City Hall in elections going forward.
  • Precincts formerly known as 11, 12 and 13, which generally mirror the McGraft, Lakeside and Bluffton neighborhoods, will keep mostly the same boundaries but will be renumbered 12, 13, and 14, respectively.
  • While Getty Street used to be the border for a half-dozen precincts, the new lines snake back and forth across the road.

A finalized district map was not available at Tuesday’s meeting, but will be posted on the city’s website and be available at City Hall in the coming weeks.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst