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Panel rules Michigan's congressional districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered

Michigan's 14th congressional district
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The US District Court 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.

Listen above to hear Stateside's conversation about the political ramifications of the federal court's decision with Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and Zach Gorchow, editor of Gongwer News Service.

The Legislature and governor have to come up with new political lines for the U.S. House, state Senate, and state House districts by August.

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The court opinion states, "This court joins the growing chorus of federal courts that have, in recent years, held that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.”

The court further stated:

"The constitutional violations in this case are particularly severe. Evidence from numerous sources demonstrates that the map-drawers and legislators designed the Enacted Plan with the specific intent to discriminate against Democratic voters. A wide breadth of statistical evidence indicates that the Enacted Plan’s partisan bias has proven severe and durable; it has strongly advantaged Republicans and disadvantaged Democrats for eight years and across four separate election cycles."

The League of Women Voters of Michigan sued the state. They said Republicans had drawn political district lines to disadvantage Democrats. The court agreed. It said 27 of 34 challenged districts diluted the weight of people’s votes. And that every challenged district is unconstitutional.

The judges say the maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 violate Democratic voters' constitutional rights, including by diluting the weight of their votes. They are giving the GOP-led Legislature until Aug. 1 to submit new maps. The new maps would need the signature of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. And if the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic governor can’t come to a fair consensus – then the court will draw new maps itself.

The decision issued Thursday also requires special state Senate elections to be held in 2020, instead of 2022 as scheduled.

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the 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. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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