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One Michigan redistricting lawsuit down, two remain

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Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted a new state House map in December. It's being challenged in state court.

Legal troubles for Michigan’s redistricting commission are not over, even though the state Supreme Court dismissed one lawsuit against the commission this week.

There are still two suits pending against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The one that was dismissed was led by Detroit-area lawmakers and advocates who claimed the commission’s maps violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

Commission chair Rebecca Szetela said she doubts the ruling on that lawsuit will affect other litigation against the maps.

“Each case that has been filed is different, and so I would not say what has happened in one is going to impact the other. I think the Supreme Court has been very diligent in processing these cases,” she said.

One of the remaining lawsuits is in state court, challenging the commission’s House map based on partisan fairness.

The other is a federal complaint that challenges the state’s new congressional map based on population differences between districts. It also claims the commission split county and local municipalities in a way that violates the Michigan constitution.

State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) is among the plaintiffs in that lawsuit. He said the stakes are high enough that the case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Ultimately, the commission violated its own tenets of its own enacting constitutional language," LaFave said. "If the state Supreme Court is not willing to follow the state constitution, let’s hope that the United States Supreme Court is."

But Szetela said she’s optimistic the map will hold up.

“I think the commission complied with the legal advice that we received from our experts in terms of compliance with that particular criteria, which is equal population," Szetela said. "I do think that our maps satisfy that requirement and I think, ultimately, we will be successful in that case."

There’s also the issue of timing, if any of the challenges to the maps were to find success.

The redistricting commission adopted final legislative maps at the end of December, with little time to spare. The commission's timeline is spelled out in the constitutional amendment that created it. A majority of commissioners shut down an attempt to take more time to consider adjusting the maps during a December meeting.

Still, LaFave said the importance of the work outweighs the practicality of meeting deadlines ahead of the 2022 November election.

“We’re talking about citizens’ rights to be and influence and create their own government,” LaFave said.

He said he plans on introducing a constitutional amendment next week to strike out most of the 2018 amendment that created the redistricting commission. LaFave said his plan would require a two-thirds majority of the state House and Senate to approve new district lines.

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