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Ruling Forces Redrawing Of Legislative Maps In Michigan

Michigan Capital

A three-judge panel has ruled that Michigan's congressional and legislative maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered, ordering the state legislature to redraw at least 34 districts for the 2020 election.

WKAR's Scott Pohl talks with capital correspondent Cheyna Roth about Thursday's decision, which also requires special state Senate elections to be held in 2020 instead of 2022 as scheduled.

CHEYNA ROTH: This is a lawsuit that's been going on for quite a while. Essentially what's been going on is the League of Women Voters of Michigan has said that the lines that were drawn by a Republican-led legislature and signed by a Republican Governor are no good. They've said that they unfairly favor Republicans and essentially rigged the game so that Republicans can win the most districts.

There was a trial not too long ago, where we heard a lot of the evidence that the plaintiffs had cited in this case, including emails that said things like, we need, for legal and PR purposes, a good looking map that does not look like an obvious gerrymander. The court said, look, these maps are unfairly drawn, we're going to have to redraw all of these districts. For a handful of senators, they're going to have to hold an election a lot sooner than they anticipated.

SCOTT POHL: One of those senators is Mallory McMorrow, who yesterday comically posted a video clip online upon news that she might have to run for reelection in 2020, rather than 2022. She won for the first time last year. The video clip shows her entering her office and then collapsing to the floor.

ROTH: I think she very much echoes the sentiment felt by a lot of lawmakers right now, not just the ones that have to run for re-election.

Now we have to have the Republican legislature agree with the Governor, who's a Democrat, on these lines. That's going to take a lot of doing, and the court has said that if you guys can't come to a consensus, if you cannot sign fair maps into law by August 1, then the court is going to draw the new maps itself. And keep in mind that all of these are districts that are probably going to impact the lines in a lot of other districts as well, because they're so close to each other. This is an incredible amount of work that the court has just given over to the legislature and the Governor and the Secretary of State's office. However, I will point out that the Republicans have said that they plan to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court.

POHL: So what's next now, Shana?

ROTH: The Republicans are going to be appealing this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. It sounds like they will probably request some sort of a stay or essentially a pause on everything until the Supreme Court decides whether or not they're going to take up their appeal. That's going to decide what has to happen here. They are hearing some similar cases, one of them out of North Carolina. They're expected to rule on those in the summer, so we're in a holding pattern. Given how much work this is going to take, I would expect that the legislature and lawmakers and the Governor's office and the Secretary of State should already be planning to carry out the court's ruling.

POHL: And there's a budget to work on to this summer.

ROTH: Yeah, nothing but time and huge things to take care of.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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