Michigan Supreme Court upholds redistricting commission maps in face of voting rights lawsuit

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Michigan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against the state’s redistricting commission that alleged the newly drawn electoral districts adopted by the group violated federal voting rights requirements and would unlawfully disenfranchise black voters. their rights.

The court dismissed the lawsuit brought by Detroit lawmakers, local politicians and Democratic activists who argued that the commission’s decision to eliminate the state’s majority black Congressional and Senate districts that currently run through Detroit and to reduce the number of such districts in the State House violates the vote. Rights Act. This federal law prohibits electoral districts that deny voters belonging to protected racial minorities the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.

In its order, the majority of the court found that those suing the commission had not presented sufficient evidence to support its claim that the commission should have maintained the same number of districts in which racial minorities constitute a majority.

“And if the Commission had intentionally created majority-minority districts without ‘sufficient justification,’ it would have easily invited a potentially meritorious challenge as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander,” the order reads.

Justices Richard Bernstein, David Viviano and Brian Zahra dissented, leaving Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Justices Megan Cavanagh, Elizabeth Clement and Elizabeth Welch as the slim majority behind the court order.

The dissenting justices called the Majority’s dismissal “premature” and “unfair”. Instead, they argued the court should have appointed an independent expert to help the court review the case. The majority of the court blames those who brought the lawsuit “for not presenting evidence that we never asked or required them to present”.

“Procedure matters. People care how their cases are handled and whether they have had a fair chance to be heard,” the dissenting justices wrote.

The majority order notes that Nabih Ayad, a lawyer for those disputing the maps, told judges during oral argument last week that he believed the court had enough information to order the commission to redraw the districts.

Katherine McKnight, an attorney for the Michigan Redistricting Commission, argued that those suing the commission had not submitted the necessary evidence to show that the commission should have drawn districts with a higher share of black voters. The majority of the court agreed, noting that the commission’s analysis of racial voting patterns in Michigan counties with large black populations — Genesee, Oakland, Saginaw and Wayne counties — indicates that white voters in those places do not consistently vote against preferred black candidates.

Following: Michigan Republicans challenge Congress’ redistricting commission map in federal court

Following: Michigan redistricting commission defends maps, denies they’re unfair to black voters

“The great hope of the Voting Rights Act is that there will come a day when it will no longer be necessary to draw majority-minority districts for minority communities to elect candidates of their choice and Michigan is already seeing that progress.” , McKnight said. the vigilantes.

Civil rights advocates and black lawmakers disagree with the commission’s approach, arguing that districts drawn by the commission would undermine the political representation of black voters.

Ayad told the judges “it will take a miracle” for black people’s favorite candidates to win elections in newly drawn precincts that contain fewer black voters than current maps.

He argued that candidates backed by black voters would struggle to win primary elections in new Detroit-based districts that combine predominantly black parts of the city with suburban communities.

While Thursday’s court order upholds the commission’s work, the group faces other pending lawsuits. Republicans have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Congress’s new map, arguing that population differences between districts are not justified. And a group of voting rights organizations has filed a lawsuit in Michigan’s Supreme Court alleging State House’s new card provides an unfair advantage to Republicans.

Clara Hendrickson audits Michigan issues and politics as a body member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support his 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: Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Redistricting Commission Maps

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