LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Republicans sued to block the state’s new congressional map, saying it is constitutionally flawed because of population deviations, too much splitting of municipal lines and the carving up of “communities of interest.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court, alleges a new commission that drew the 13-seat map arbitrarily and inconsistently applied redistricting criteria outlined in the state constitution — violating voters’ federal constitutional rights.
The 2018 voter-approved amendment that created the panel includes seven ranked drawing criteria. The suit accuses commissioners of ignoring roughly half the criteria and, to the extent they did properly apply any criteria, doing so out of order. It contends counties are “Michigan’s true communities of interest” and proposes a new “remedy” map that would leave more counties intact and increase compactness.
The Republicans suing include state Rep. Beau LaFave, former state Rep. Joseph Graves and two employees with the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund.
Commission spokesperson Edward Woods III said, “We followed the seven ranked redistricting criteria stated in Michigan’s constitution.” Reflecting municipal boundaries is the sixth-lowest criteria.
It is the second lawsuit challenging the U.S. House map that was finalized in late December and will last a decade, barring court intervention. The first, brought by Black officials in the Detroit area, alleges that a lack of majority-Black districts in Congress and the Legislature will hurt Black voters’ ability to elect minority candidates.
In a response to the suit this week, lawyers said the commission concluded that majority-minority districts are unnecessary to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and may concentrate Black voters in too few districts in a way that diminishes, rather than enhances, their voting strength.
Republicans have long opposed shifting responsibility for the once-a-decade redistricting process from lawmakers to the independent citizens commission. The new maps are fairer to Democrats on a partisan basis than when the GOP-controlled Legislature drew them in 2011 and 2001.