Activists who spearheaded efforts to pass the redistricting reforms in 2018, rallying to get their proposal in front of Michigan voters. Photo by Voters not Politicians.
Activists who spearheaded efforts to pass the redistricting reforms in 2018, rallying to get their proposal in front of Michigan voters. Photo by Voters not Politicians.

Michigan citizens overwhelmingly voted to take the drawing of Congressional districts away from politicians. A Federal Court voted unanimously against Republican efforts to stop them.

LANSING, MI — Following the 2020 Census, everyday Michiganders will for the first time be the people drawing their Congressional districts instead of politicians. Republicans went to court to stop that process, and lost. 

A three-judge panel from the 6th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Wednesday that Michigan’s creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission (The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission) would go forward as planned. 

The case, Daunt v. Bensen, challenged the creation of the 13-member commission consisting of four Democrats, four Republicans and five Independents which was approved by a citizen initiative to amend the state constitution in 2018 with a 61% majority vote according to state data

“Today’s federal court decision upholding the authority of Michiganders to amend their state constitution and create citizen-led districting is a victory for our citizens and our democracy,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Bensen in a statement

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The central thrust of the Republican lawsuit to block the commission was that the selection criteria violated their rights to association and that elected officials, candidates, lobbyists, legislative staffers and their family members were prohibited from serving on the commission.

The Court did not find that argument compelling. 

“We note that the eligibility criteria do not represent some out-of-place addition to an unrelated state program; they are part and parcel of the definition of this Commission, of how it achieves independence from partisan meddling,” Judge Karen Moore wrote in the court’s opinion. “The commissioners here are not elected, and their duties do not include translating ‘common principles’ with party adherents into ‘concerted action.’” 

That point is important, as Republicans argued that they should, as a party, have the right to choose who represents them and lacking that their right to association was violated. But, Moore wrote,  the idea that Republicans’ constitutional rights were violated was rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the party and the commission. Essentially, Michigan Republicans were arguing that Republican members of the commission were party officials and should therefore be chosen by the party itself. But party officials of any stripe are explicitly prohibited from serving on the commission. 

Moore went on to write that “interest in avoiding partisan conflicts of interests and unsavory patronage practices” were compelling and constitutional. 

Moore’s opinion was joined by fellow Clinton-appointee Ronald Gilman and concurred with by Trump-appointee Chad Readler.

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“In upholding Michigan’s decision to organize its system of government through the use of a bipartisan redistricting commission, we honor our nation’s historical deference to a state’s interest in self-government, something the Supreme Court has routinely emphasized in upholding the most analogous state laws to have come before it,” wrote Readler. “Michigan voters decided to prohibit those they deemed to be ‘political insiders’ from drawing legislative lines. Whether one views that decision for the better or worse, it plainly is not ‘irrational.’”

From here, Republicans could try their case at the United States Supreme Court.

Voters Not Politicians, the group that led the ballot measure efforts, said it will continue to encourage as many people as possible to apply to serve on the commission before the June 1 deadline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.