Detroit lawmakers to sue redistribution commission, alleging violation of voting rights law

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Current and former Detroit lawmakers said Monday they plan to sue the Michigan Redistribution Commission, alleging that new congressional and state legislative maps passed by the group last week would unlawfully deprive black voters of the right to vote.

Maps adopted by the Independent Citizen-Led Redistribution Commission of Michigan eliminate the predominantly black districts of the state Congress and Senate that currently cross Detroit and reduce the number of predominantly black districts of Detroit in the new map of Detroit. the State House.

At a press briefing Monday, Nabih Ayad, the lawyer who will represent the plaintiffs, said a lawsuit would be filed later Monday in the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that the new lines violate the Voting Rights Act , the federal law which prohibits racially discriminated constituencies. who deny minority voters the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.

Ayad said more plaintiffs were joining the “hour-to-hour” lawsuit that sought to suspend implementation of the new cards.

The lawsuit will ask the court to order the redistribution commission to redraw them, Ayad said.

“I felt it was imperative that we intended legal action immediately,” said Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, who was planning to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff. Yancey has said she will not be running in 2022 due to term limits, but is keen to support those who run in 2022 to represent the Detroiters.

Plaintiffs expected in the lawsuit called on Democrats at Monday’s briefing to support the court challenge, arguing that Michigan Democrats should not pass cards that give them a chance to win congressional and legislative majorities at the expense of the representation of black voters.

“Don’t leave us in the rain because you just want a majority,” said former state representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, a plaintiff expected in the lawsuit.

Analysis by the Michigan Racial Voting Patterns Commission over the past decade found that in counties with large black populations, white voters consistently supported the preferred black candidates.

Based on this analysis, the commission’s voting rights attorney, Bruce Adelson, informed the commission that it does not need to draw majority minority districts to comply with federal rights requirements. to vote.

Following: Michigan Redistribution Commission votes on new maps mark historic first

Following: Michigan Redistribution Commission adopts new state legislative maps

Before starting to draw his maps, Adelson advised the commission to fix districts in Detroit that were teeming with black voters, referring to a form of gerrymandering in which a group of voters is heavily concentrated in a handful of districts where they are virtually guaranteed to see their favorite candidates. elected, but their influence is withdrawn from surrounding communities.

He pointed to three State House districts in place today that are home to a 90% black population of voting age.

“I have never drafted, approved, endorsed a 90% majority district or more,” he told commissioners in September.

Current and former lawmakers in Detroit have argued for months that the new districts are now going too far in the other direction, slightly scattering black voters in many districts and lowering their chances of electing their favorite candidates.

And plaintiffs in the lawsuit will argue that the new cards dilute the representation of black voters by reducing the share of the black voting age population in the new districts, Ayad said.

Unlike state legislative maps currently in place, the new districts cross 8 Mile Road, combining predominantly black neighborhoods in Detroit with predominantly white suburban communities in Oakland and Macomb counties.

Detroit lawmakers argued that the city’s black candidates would struggle to win primary elections in the new districts. They say strong Democratic districts would see Democratic voters in the city and suburbs backing different candidates, and argue that the commission did not take a close look at state legislative primary elections to better understand racial voting patterns.

“We could potentially have people representing our community who have no commitment to our city,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “Detroit deserves to have black leadership.”

Responding to concerns about the primary elections in the new districts, Adelson countered that the commission had only been able to create estimates of racial voting patterns in its new districts for a Democratic primary election, the only Democratic primary race in the country. statewide in 2018. This election did not show black voters rallying around a single preferred candidate, Adelson said.

Adelson acknowledged that the commission was working with limited data. “But this is the universe in which we operate,” he said.

Ahead of the final vote, Independent Commissioner Anthony Eid said the new lines mark an improvement over existing lines when it comes to providing an opportunity for effective representation of minorities. Some commissioners have expressed last-minute reservations. Rebecca Szetela, chairman of the commission, said she feared the new districts might not have enough black voters to give them the chance to elect their favorite candidates, but said she trusted the councils of ‘Adelson.

Clara Hendrickson checks Michigan facts and politics as a member of the corps with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support their work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at cendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on twitter @clarajanehen.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit lawmakers sue Michigan Redistribution Commission over maps

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