Michigan Senate GOP appeals gerrymandering case to SCOTUS

U.S. Supreme Court | U.S. Capitol photo, Flickr

Updated: 5/2, 10:16 A.M.

The Republican majority in the Michigan Senate has, as promised, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal court’s order that new legislative maps be drawn. This comes after a federal ruling last week that determined multiple districts in the state had been gerrymandered to the benefit of the GOP.

The notice of appeal comes from the Michigan Senate and three individual legislators, state Sens. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) and Lana Theis (R-Brighton). Stamas, Horn and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) would have their terms reduced by two years if the ruling stands.

Jim Stamas (left), Lana Theis (middle) and Ken Horn (right)

Senate GOP spokeswoman Amber McCann said the caucus will “proceed to comply with the ruling” while waiting to hear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.

She added that no specific plans have been made as to whether to begin drawing new maps, as last week’s ruling ordered. The three-judge panel from the U.S. Eastern District last Thursday unanimously ordered the GOP-controlled Legislature to redraw the maps of at least 34 legislative and congressional districts in advance of the 2020 elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over two redistricting cases in March, but has not yet offered any rulings. The North Carolina suit alleges Republican gerrymandering and the Maryland case claims Democrats did.

The new maps called for in Michigan would require the signature of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by Aug. 1. Should the Legislature and Whitmer fail to strike a deal, the judges said they would redraw the maps on their own.

A rally to end gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court on 3/26/19, as the Justices hear a Maryland and North Carolina case on gerrymandering | Victoria Pickering, Flickr

The case was initially brought by the League of Women Voters and Michigan Democratic voters who alleged that the maps approved in 2011 when Republicans controlled all aspects of state government were rigged in favor of the GOP.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson became the plaintiff in the case after taking office and quickly moved to settle it, to which Republicans objected. The judges rejected the settlement and the case went to trial.

While Michigan Republicans hope the nation’s highest court intervenes, Democrats — including some state senators who might have to run for their seats again in 2020, two years ahead of schedule — are urging them to drop the case.

“The courts have confirmed what Michiganders have known for years — our legislative districts have been rigged to silence the voices of Michigan voters,” state Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) said in a statement on Wednesday. “House Democrats are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work ensuring that our legislative districts are fair and constitutional, and I’m hopeful that intervening Republicans will cease with their pointless lawsuits and join us in that effort.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the fact that Theis is not one of the legislators who would have their term cut short.

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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