Federal Appeals Panel Upholds Michigan Redistricting Commission
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court upheld the creation of Michigan’s independent redistricting commission in a decision issued Wednesday that rejected an appeal by state Republicans that the commission violated their constitutional rights.
More than a dozen states have some form of a redistricting commission, which will draw new district lines based on results of the 2020 census.
Michigan voters in 2018 approved an amendment to its state constitution that handed over district line-drawing power from state lawmakers to a 13-member commission. But litigants, which included the state GOP party, argued that selection criteria for commission members and limitations on what those members could say publicly violated the Constitution.
The U.S. 6th Circuit of Appeals disagreed. In its opinion Wednesday, the panel said the state’s limits on who could serve and what those members could say about their work didn’t run afoul of the First Amendment.
“But whether a state’s task be district-line drawing or setting the rules for its elections, I (like the majority opinion) am reluctant to interfere with a state’s effort to structure its system of government, to which we owe significant deference, absent the infringement of a dramatic federal interest or a significant violation of constitutional rights,” wrote Judge Chad Readler, who was appointed by President Donald Trump.
The 13-member Michigan commission includes four members of both major political parties and five unaffiliated members. Elected officials, lobbyists and relatives cannot serve as members of the commission.
Maps drawn by the commission must gain support of at least two members of both party affiliation and cannot offer undue partisan advantage, under the language adopted in 2018.
Representatives for the Michigan Republican Party and the Michigan attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Wednesday’s ruling.
The Campaign Legal Center and Voters Not Politicians, two Michigan groups that backed the constitutional amendment, praised the decision.
“Taking partisanship out of drawing electoral maps is critical to advancing the principle of accountability in government,” Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement. “Michigan voters want fair maps. They will not be silenced by special interests, who continue to try and exert their will over the redistricting process.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose National Democratic Redistricting Commission has backed some state efforts, also praised the decision.
“The citizens of Michigan voted overwhelmingly to create an independent commission to draw the lines in the upcoming redistricting process. Republicans sued so that politicians could keep drawing the lines and pick their voters. They lost. This is a victory for fairness/democracy,” Holder wrote in a tweet.
While the Census Bureau’s planned late delivery of census results may spell trouble for other states, the Michigan constitution allows until next November to finalize new state legislative and congressional maps.
©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
Eighteen members of Congress on Wednesday announced the formation of a new Congressional Caucus whose intent is to ensure that the priorities and concerns of cities and counties across America are heard on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan Congressional Caucus of Former Local Elected Officials was formed... Read More
Thirty-five states are at extreme or high risk of partisan gerrymandering, according to an in-depth report by the nonpartisan RepresentUs organization. The Gerrymandering Threat Index rates all 50 states, and its authors argue their findings underscore the urgent need to pass the redistricting reforms within the... Read More
WASHINGTON - A bipartisan bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program to May 31 is gaining support in the House and the Senate and will likely be voted on before lawmakers head back to their districts at the end of the month. The proposal to extend... Read More
WASHINGTON - It’s hard to believe it’s almost that time of year again, but on Monday came word that the peak bloom for the cherry blossoms ringing the Tidal Basin in Washington is currently expected to occur April 2-5. That means the most vivid of blooms... Read More
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Josh Venable, a longtime Michigan GOP operative and chief of staff to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, can trace the arc of the state's Republican Party clearly."This was the state where to be Republican was defined by Gerald Ford and George... Read More
NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. fought for a year and a half to get access to former President Donald Trump's tax records.Now, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he will soon have them. But what will that mean for... Read More