The group behind the constitutional amendment that created Michigan’s citizen-led, independent redistricting process took steps Monday to defend the commission’s work in court against a lawsuit brought by Republicans challenging the new congressional map.
Voters Not Politicians filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit against the commissioners who drew the map.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of Michigan Republicans in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleges that there is no legal justification for the population differences between the congressional districts drawn by the commission and that the new lines unnecessarily split up counties and municipalities.
A three-judge panel was recently appointed in the case.
“We seek to intervene to ensure that the voice of Michigan’s voters are clearly heard in this case,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians.
“Independent redistricting commissions, like the one passed by Michigan voters in 2018, are designed to ensure that our political system remains by, of and for the people,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president at Campaign Legal Center, which is providing legal representation to Voters Not Politicians. “The court should reject this effort to prevent the commission from accomplishing the purpose for which it was overwhelmingly approved by the voters.”
The complaint filed by Republicans alleges that the population differences violate the U.S. Constitution, which requires districts to have the same population size with small deviations allowed under some circumstances. The complaint also alleges that the commission arbitrarily split up communities in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
In a brief supporting its motion to intervene, Voters Not Politicians argues that the federal court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the second claim. The Republicans suing the commission “have invented a claim that is entirely without merit or basis in federal law,” the brief states. “Instead, they attempt to advance half-baked arguments premised wholly on state law by disguising them in the trappings of the Equal Protection Clause to sneak them into federal court.”
Democratic elections lawyer Marc Elias also recently moved to defend the commission’s congressional districts on behalf of a group supportive of the commission’s work. Elias called the lawsuit a Republican attempt to undermine Michigan’s redistricting process.
Opponents of gerrymandering – the practice of politicians who draw voting boundaries to advantage themselves politically – have heralded the work of Michigan’s inaugural redistricting commission and its efforts to draw fair maps.
Voters Not Politicians criticized some of the early draft maps drawn by the commission that appeared to benefit Republicans as politically skewed. But the group that drafted the amendment that created the commission celebrated when the final congressional and state legislative district maps were adopted in late December.
Other voting rights advocacy organizations have expressed displeasure with the end product. The League of Women Voters of Michigan and other groups filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Supreme Court alleging that the new state House map is unfair to Democrats.
Last week, the state Supreme Court struck down the first lawsuit challenging the commission’s maps and how they divided Black voters. The court found that the commission did not violate federal voting rights requirements that prohibit districts that deny protected racial minorities an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.
This story was originally published by the Detroit Free Press. Read more here: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2022/02/07/michigan-redistricting-maps/6698405001/