Judge dismisses GOP suits against independent redistricting commission

Michigan congressional districts | Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Janet Neff on Monday dismissed two Republican lawsuits designed to upend the voter-approved constitutional amendment that established the Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. 

“Michigan’s Constitution begins with, ‘All political power is inherent in the people.’ The courts have vindicated the people’s right to use our political power to take back our redistricting process and unrig our elections,” said Nancy Wang, Voters Not Politicians (VNP) executive director. “We are thrilled to see an end to these wasteful lawsuits brought by the Michigan Republican Party, Tony Daunt of the Michigan Freedom Fund, and other opponents of fair redistricting to thwart the will of the people.”

The commission was created after state voters in 2018 approved Proposal 2 that VNP argued would improve fairness and competitiveness in voting districts. A key component of the amendment is that electors will lead the effort to draw state legislative and U.S. congressional election maps, not elected officials.

Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied requests to rehear the cases en banc, as the Advance previously reported.

Court rejects rehearing of GOP cases to bar redistricting commission 

Wang added that Neff’s decision to grant the motions filed by Voters Not Politicians and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to dismiss the lawsuits “is another legal victory for Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel applauded the court decision.

“This decision reaffirms exactly what our democracy demands: a fair process for the people of this state,” Nessel said. “In 2018, Michiganders made it abundantly clear that the integrity of our democracy should not be left up to those in positions of power looking to satisfy their own agenda. The court’s decision today is historic for the people of this state and further solidifies their right to be heard.”

Benson also was pleased with the ruling.

“The court sided with the overwhelming majority of Michigan voters who amended our state constitution to enable the people of the state to draw fair political districts,” Benson said. “My office will continue to support the will of the people by carrying out the historic work to launch the commission in an apolitical and transparent manner.”

GOP loses appeal to stop independent redistricting commission

The application window to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission closed on June 1. About 9,300 applications were received. 

Benson’s office randomly selected a group of 200 “semi-finalists” that reflects the geographic and demographic diversity of the state. Legislative leadership has until Aug. 1 to eliminate up to 10% of the applications in the semi-finalist pool.

Then Rehmann LLC, an independent accounting firm, will randomly select from the remaining applications the final 13 commissioners – four who affiliate as Republicans, four who affiliate as Democrats, and five who affiliate with neither major party by Sept. 1. The new lines will go into effect for the 2022 election.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.