Changes in Detroit and tri-county State Representative characteristics after the 2012 Election

One of our recent posts examined several characteristics of the State Representatives who represented Detroit and the tri-county region (Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne) during the 2011-12 term.  In this week’s post, we compare the characteristics for legislators in the 2011-12 term to those who are currently serving.  This will illustrate some effects of the November election and the new apportionment plan for the state House. The other unique aspect of Michigan’s 2012 election was the transition to the state’s new apportionment plan.  As a result of this election, many new representatives now sit in the state House, 42 of whom represent districts in Detroit and the tri-county area. Here we will examine some characteristics of these 42 officials.

The tri-county area lost three districts as a result of the new apportionment plan (a district is considered to be in Detroit or the tri county area if the majority of the district is geographically within Detroit or one of the tri-county’s boundaries, respectively).  Detroit did not gain or lose any districts, although under the new apportionment plan, several Detroit districts no longer represent Detroit exclusively, and now contain portions of surrounding areas. According to the new plan there are now five districts that represent Detroit exclusively; last term there were nine.

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The chart above compares all 42 of the current representatives in the tri-county area to their 45 predecessors on the basis of four criteria: party affiliation, gender, membership in the legislative Black Caucus, and committee leadership (a legislator is considered a committee leader if he or she is the chair, vice chair, and minority vice chair on one or more state House committees.  This definition allows members of the minority party to be included).  Overall, the percentage of Democratic tri-county representatives has remained roughly the same, declining only somewhat after the 2012 election.  This slight decline occurred despite President Barack Obama’s electoral strength in the tri-counties.   A smaller percentage of women now represent the region compared to the previous term.  Furthermore, a smaller percentage of tri-county representatives are members of the legislative Black Caucus.  In contrast to these declines, however, a greater percentage of this region’s representatives serve as committee leaders during the 2013-14 term. Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, along with Detroit, all saw an increase in the number of representatives who entered their third term after the 2012 election; in turn there were fewer freshman entering. This means we can expect substantial turnover in the next term.

•A considerable majority (64%) of representatives are Democrats;
•Women constitute 24% of tri-county representatives;
•Only 21% are members of the legislative Black Caucus (membership in the legislative Black Caucus does not necessarily reflect racial identification;)
•The majority (57%) of tri-county representatives hold committee leadership posts during the 2013-14 term;
•Just over one third of Detroit’s representatives are now serving their third terms and exactly half are in their second terms.  The proportions are very similar for representatives in outlying tri-county districts, except that a greater percentage of freshman representatives (21%) are serving the region outside of Detroit.

In this chart, and the remainder of the charts in this post, the percentage of representatives that represent the specific criteria being examined correspond with the height of the bar. When looking at the number above each bar, that represents that number of representatives that make up each percentage.

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The increase in committee leadership is driven by the higher percentage of state representatives from Detroit who are now committee leaders. The chart above reveals the magnitude of this increase.  The chart also reveals that, as with the tri-county region as a whole, a smaller percentage of Detroit’s state representatives are women and members of the legislative Black Caucus.  As with the previous term, all state representatives of Detroit are Democrats.

Last term, Detroit had 12 representatives, three of whom served districts that were only partially in Detroit.  Of those three districts, one was not “majority-Detroit,” so there were 11 “Detroit districts” last term. This term, Detroit has 10 representatives, five of whom serve districts that are only partially in Detroit.  Of those five districts, two are not “majority Detroit,” so there are eight “Detroit districts” this term.

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When we examine each of the counties individually, we observe additional changes.  The charts above show some exceptions to the broader shifts noted above.  They illustrate, for example, that Wayne County districts outside of Detroit lost committee leaders after the 2012 election.  They also show Oakland County is the only county to have lost Democratic representatives, and Macomb County remains the only area in the tri-county region not represented by a member of the legislative Black Caucus.

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Another characteristic of state representatives is their length of service.  Michigan state representatives are constitutionally limited to three terms; therefore all representatives are in one of three stages of their state House careers.  After the 2012 elections, the percentage of first-term representatives from Detroit districts dropped substantially from 55 percent to 13 percent, while the percentage serving their third terms increased from 9 percent to 38 percent.  Half of the city’s state representatives are now in the second terms.

This situation is parallel to the one depicted for those tri-county representatives whose districts are outside of Detroit.  Here again, the percentage of freshmen dropped 20 percentage points, while the proportion of third-termers increased by 23 percentage points.

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The charts above demonstrate that term of service proportions have moved in the same direction for Detroit and each of the counties in Metro-Detroit.   The percentages move in the same direction even when broken down by county.  The main exception is Macomb County, which saw an increase in second-term representatives after the 2012 election.  Taken together, the tri-county region will see a higher rate of retirement in 2014 than it saw in 2012 due to the higher proportion of third-term representatives.

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