Benson files lawsuit to extend redistricting process deadline

    Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announces details of Michigan's new Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission on Oct. 24, 2019 | Claire Moore

    Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has filed suit with the state Supreme Court, saying it’s necessary to ensure the public can provide feedback on the new legislative and congressional district maps that will be drawn by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). 

    The suit was filed jointly with the MICRC and seeks to establish a new deadline to complete maps due to the delay in provision of census data from the federal government.

    “Our state constitution guarantees the people of Michigan 45 days to review and provide comment on the maps created by the independent commission, and this time must be granted them despite the delay by the U.S. Census Bureau,” said Benson, a first-term Democrat from Detroit. “We launched this historic commission in a manner that was citizen led and transparent and voters across the state and across the political spectrum expect it to continue to operate this way.”

    The suit outlines that the current constitutional deadline is “untenable,” as it requires the commission to make maps available for 45 days of public comment starting on Sept. 17, although the U.S. Census Bureaus will not have official data until Sept. 30.

    Benson’s action seeks to move the deadline for the commission to propose new legislative districts from Sept. 17 to Dec. 11, and for the final maps to be approved on Jan. 25, 2022. The timeline, Benson argues, would also ensure the Bureau of Elections has sufficient time to update the voter registration database in accordance with the new district lines and that local clerks can create and provide every voter with their correct ballot.

    The MICRC is composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents is charged with drawing new district lines by November 2021 as defined by Proposal 2 of 2018. Previously, the Legislature drew maps and legislation had to be signed by the governor.

    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.