Court orders commission to draw new state House districts by Feb. 2

By Michigan Advance

January 10, 2024

BY LILY GUINEY, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—A panel of US District Court judges ruled Monday that Detroit-area state House of Representatives district maps, drawn in violation of the 14th Amendment, must be replaced with new maps by Feb. 2.

After a court-ordered injunction prohibited Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from holding elections in several metro Detroit districts due to violations of the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, the Michigan Independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission (MICRC) attempted to appeal so that elections could be held.

The requested stay on the injunction was denied.

In the three-judge panel’s ruling, Judge Paul L. Maloney wrote that the MICRC had participated in racial gerrymandering of thirteen districts and would need to replace them with new maps in less than a month.

“The Secretary of State needs a new Michigan House of Representatives electoral map as soon as possible,” Maloney wrote.

The MICRC was created by a 2018 constitutional amendment approved by voters. The 13-member body has four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents and drew the maps used for the first time during the 2022 election. Previously, the Legislature would design new districts every 10 years and the governor would sign off.

A 2022 lawsuit from a group of African-American Detroiters alleged that several of the state’s house districts in metro Detroit violated the Voting Rights Act (VRA) due to racial gerrymandering, a claim which was partially upheld by the District Court.

“The Commission violated the Fourteenth Amendment by drawing thirteen of Michigan’s legislative districts predominately on the basis of race but did not reach the VRA claims,” the court’s opinion read.

The MICRC last week voted to appeal that ruling to the US Supreme Court.

All three judges were appointed by Republicans and have now the ordered the MICRC to produce new maps for public comment by Feb. 2, a challenge it acknowledged would be subject to time constraints.

“There’s no doubt the Commission will face a tight timeline going forward as it endeavors to draw new Senate and House districts,” Maloney wrote in the opinion. “But Plaintiffs, as well as the millions of Michiganders in metro Detroit, deserve maps that are not racially gerrymandered.”

Ed Woods, the commission’s executive director, did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

In the same ruling, the court also denied the MICRC’s request for special elections in the state Senate in 2024. The next elections of most state senators will take place in 2026.

READ MORE: What’s the deal with Michigan’s legislative maps? And how do we fix them?

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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