Judge allows independent redistricting commission to move forward over GOP objections

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announces details of Michigan's new Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission on Oct. 24, 2019 | Claire Moore
Updated, 6:07 p.m. 11/25/19

A federal judge in Grand Rapids has denied a request by several Michigan Republicans to block the implementation of a new independent redistricting commission.

In a Monday opinion in the case of Daunt v. Benson, Judge Janet Neff with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan wrote that the plaintiffs — which include the Michigan Republican Party, several elected officials and party activists — lacked standing to halt implementation of the commission.

GOP sues to block redistricting commission

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is named as a defendant in her official capacity, although she backed the effort during her 2018 campaign and has been holding events to educate the public on the new process.

More than 61% of voters voted affirmatively in November 2018 for Proposal 2 creating the nascent Independent Redistricting Commission, which takes the power to create legislative districts away from elected officials. 

“We are proud to be protecting Michigan’s voter-approved Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission alongside Voters Not Politicians.,” said Paul Smith, vice president of the Campaign Legal Center. “The court was right to reject the attempt by the plaintiffs to use the courts to thwart the will of the people.”*

2nd Republican suit filed to stop new redistricting panel

Several GOP lawmakers and party officials filed lawsuits this past summer, saying that certain requirements for the commission members would potentially block people from being able to serve on the committee because they have elected family members. 

“Even if the Court viewed the merits of the Member Plaintiffs’ claims differently, preserving the status chosen by the voters more than one year ago is important as this case progresses through the courts toward final resolution,” Neff wrote. 

A Michigan GOP spokesman told the Advance Monday night that the plaintiffs are reviewing all of their options before determining next steps.

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.