Court: Boundaries for 13 Michigan legislative districts illegally influenced by race

By Associated Press

December 22, 2023

DETROIT—The boundaries of 13 Detroit-area seats in the Michigan Legislature must be redrawn, a three-judge panel said Thursday after finding the map was illegally influenced by race.

Nearly 80% of Detroit residents are Black, but the Black voting age population in the Detroit-area districts mostly ranges from 35% to 45%, the panel said. One is 19%.

Experts had repeatedly told a state redistricting commission in 2021 that certain percentages were necessary to comply with federal law. The panel, however, disagreed.

“That proposition is without support” in precedents set by the US Supreme Court, the panel of federal judges said.

“The record here shows overwhelmingly—indeed, inescapably—that the commission drew the boundaries of plaintiffs’ districts predominantly on the basis of race. We hold that those districts were drawn in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution,” Judge Raymond Kethledge wrote.

The parties must return to court in early January to discuss how to come up with a new map.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of Black residents who argued that the map diluted their voting power. The seats at issue—seven in the House and six in the Senate—are all held by Democrats.

The House is currently tied 54-54 among Democrats and Republicans, with two vacancies. Democrats are in the majority in the Senate, 20-18.]

The boundaries for Michigan’s seats in Congress and the Legislature were set by state lawmakers until voters in 2018 created an independent commission to handle the once-a-decade job. The first maps were produced for the 2022 election.

“Every decision they made, every word they spoke, was recorded in real time in a body of transcripts that runs some 10,000 pages,” Kethledge said. “In that respect the record here is unique among redistricting cases litigated in federal court.”

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