Michigan Dems may force redraw of legislative districts ahead of 2020 election

click to enlarge Gerrymandering at work. - Source: michigan.gov
Source: michigan.gov
Gerrymandering at work.

Michigan Democrats are moving to force a redraw of some state legislative and congressional districts ahead of the 2020 election.

If they're successful, Dems' chances of taking control of the state Senate and state House could increase. The latter scenario would send Michigan in a much more progressive direction.

Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced late last week that the state intends to settle a federal lawsuit that alleges the current legislative maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 give the GOP an unfair advantage. The lawsuit was brought by Democrats and the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.

Indeed, Michigan Democratic candidates for the state House, state Senate, and congressional districts have repeatedly received more or about the same number of collective votes during each of the last three election cycles, but the GOP has controlled each chamber, and until this year held more congressional seats.

Former Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson fought the lawsuit, which was amended last year to include 34 districts where plaintiffs live, but Benson replaced Johnson on Jan. 1.

Court filings provided to Metro Times state that Benson and the plaintiffs "have a structure" for a settlement, which could be brought for approval by a panel of three federal judges as early as Feb. 5. Since there are no state Senate elections in 2020, it's likely that there would be new elections for partial terms in seven Senate districts that are named in the lawsuit, though that detail isn't yet settled.

If the court approves the settlement, Michigan's Republican-led legislature will propose new maps, The Detroit News reports, but the court would have to approve them. If the new maps are rejected, then the court could find a new way to redraw them.

It's likely that the GOP would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court any new map not stacked in its favor. The nation's high court is already set to hear two partisan gerrymandering cases later this year, and it's not immediately clear how a ruling on that case could impact what's happening in Michigan.

Regardless, a new map would only impact the 2020 election because an independent redistricting commission approved by voters in 2018 will redraw the maps ahead of the 2022 election.

The state GOP continues to claim that politics played no role in how it drew the maps. However, Bridge last year released emails sent among those who drew the maps that clearly show their intent give Republicans an unfair advantage.

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