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Michigan Redistricting Panel Will Seek Delay To Finish Maps

Reginald Hardwick

Michigan’s redistricting commission will ask the state Supreme Court to push back the Nov. 1 deadline to finalize new political maps, citing an eight-month delay in data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The panel authorized the legal step Friday.

Under a 2018 constitutional amendment forming the commission, it must adopt once-a-decade congressional and legislative lines no later than Nov. 1. It has to propose a plan or plans for public comment by Sept. 17, before the census data will be released.

In past redistricting cycles, the agency has made the data available around February. Officials have blamed operational delays during the 2020 census that were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Michigan Supreme Court is the only entity that can provide this relief to the commission particularly,” said Julianne Pastula, the panel’s lawyer. She will soon seek members’ authorization on what amended deadlines to propose to the court.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the state’s chief elections officer, is expected to join the legal filing, Pastula said.

Election director Jonathan Brater said it typically takes about six months to update the voter file and do other work once new districts are final. The state will try to streamline the process, he said, but it mostly must be complete by April 19 — the deadline for candidates to run in 2022.

The voter-approved amendment to the state constitution took redistricting out of the hands of state lawmakers and placed it with a 13-member commission whose four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents were selected at random among applicants. It was a bid to stop partisan gerrymandering.

Michigan is likely to lose a U.S. House seat due to population changes.

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