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Michigan’s New Redistricting Commission Sued In Anticipation Of Missing Deadlines

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Courtesy
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U.S. Department of Interior

The citizen-led commission in charge of drawing new political maps in Michigan is being sued because it’s unlikely to meet deadlines.

Serial litigant Robert Davis filed the lawsuit this week, asking Michigan’s Supreme Court to make the commission abide by deadlines outlined in the state Constitution.

Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was supposed to come up with drafts of congressional and statewide legislative maps by Sept. 17 and to adopt them by Nov. 1. But commissioners made it clear they won’t make that timeline because of delayed census data amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It's reasonable for the commission to need more time, said John Chamberlin, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan.

"It would have been as a sort of Herculean task to do all the work that they have to do when they didn't get the data until just recently," he said. "There are a couple of zillion ways you could draw districts."

Earlier this year, the commission petitioned the state's top court asking for explicit permission to extend the timeline. But the judges declined to take a stand before a lawsuit was filed.

Michiganders voted in 2018 to create a new process for drawing districts. Now, a randomly selected group of Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated citizens are meeting in public to draw maps. That's a far cry from what used to be a partisan and closed-door process, Chamberlin said.

"In the past, the Republican party and their allies drew the districts to benefit Republicans," Chamberlin said. "This is a time when redistricting is not going to (get) hijacked by one party or another."

Representatives of the commission did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

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