Michigan redistricting commission should not have met in private, AG says

Nov 22, 2021 at 1:54 pm
click to enlarge Lansing State Capitol Building in Michigan under the cover of darkness. - McKeeDigital, Shutterstock
McKeeDigital, Shutterstock
Lansing State Capitol Building in Michigan under the cover of darkness.

The Independent Redistricting Commission likely violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by gathering behind closed doors to discuss voting rights and the history of discrimination in Michigan in October, Attorney General Dana Nessel said Monday.

The commission, which has come under fire for proposing new maps that would eradicate all 17 majority-Black legislative districts, gathered in private on Oct. 27 to discuss the issue.

The commission is tasked with redrawing the boundaries for state Senate and House districts, as well as Congress.

Sens. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, asked Nessel for a legal opinion on the closed-door meeting.

“The Commission went into closed session to discuss memoranda titled, ‘Voting Rights Act’ and ‘The History of Discrimination in the State of Michigan and its Influence on Voting,’” Nessel wrote. “Based on the titles of these memoranda, presumably, the matters discussed provided Commission members with certain legal parameters and historical context that should be considered in developing, drafting, and adopting the redistricting plans. If this presumption is correct, then the Commission was conducting ‘business’ that should have been done in an open meeting.”

Nessel added, “The Commission is tasked with developing and adopting new districts that will no doubt change the makeup of our elected legislators. It remains imperative that such a monumental responsibility be conducted in a public forum. The citizens of this state are owed a transparent process and the Commission must do its best to meet that expectation.”

The penalty for violating the Open Meetings Act is $1,000.

The commission didn’t immediately respond to the opinion.

Protesters have called on the district to redraw the state House and Senate districts to preserve majority-Black districts.

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