Litigation ongoing over Michigan's new voting-district maps

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click to enlarge This redistricting cycle was the first time an independent commission drew new congressional and legislative maps. - Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
This redistricting cycle was the first time an independent commission drew new congressional and legislative maps.

With new voting-district maps finalized by Michigan's new independent commission, it's now on to the litigation phase of redistricting.

One lawsuit claims partisan gerrymandering favoring Republicans in the State House maps. Another lawsuit, from Republican lawmakers, challenges the rules the Commission used to draw maps, saying communities of interest should only be counties and municipalities.

Michael Li, senior democracy counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it can be important to keep various communities together, from racial and ethnic minorities to people whose kids attend the same school district or live in the same neighborhood.

"What you hear from voters around the country is that one thing that they hate about maps is that their communities are divided," Li reported. "And of course, we all belong to multiple different communities. You have to make choices. But the question is, what communities have the biggest representational needs?"

The Republican plaintiffs also have stated plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to go back to having lawmakers draw new maps, rather than an independent commission. A third lawsuit brought by lawmakers in Detroit claiming racial gerrymandering in congressional maps has been dismissed by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Despite the lawsuits, Li acknowledged Michigan's new maps are much more fair than before. He pointed out the Commission had a difficult task; not only is it the first ever independent redistricting commission in Michigan, but census data was delayed.

"If you're a Michigan voter who last decade saw really discriminatory maps, you know, this is night and day, and much, much better," Li observed. "It's a brand-new process, and you always learn things, and you always try to improve and be better the next time."

Candidates seeking to run for office, either for Congress or the Michigan Legislature, need to file nominating petitions by April 19. Primary elections are on August 2, and the general election is in November.

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