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Redistricting commission keeps memos private, Senate votes to ban commission from meeting privately

Michigan Citizens Redistricting Commission
Michigan Citizens Redistricting Commission

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will keep confidential memos on the Voting Rights Act from its attorneys private.

Lawmakers and the state attorney general have said the commission likely was wrong for discussing the memos in a closed-door session during an October meeting.

On Thursday, the commission’s legal team vehemently warned it against releasing the memos and a recording of the closed-door session.

They claimed doing so could be interpreted as the commission abandoning attorney-client privilege.

Commission chair Rebecca Szetela said she doesn’t buy their argument that releasing the memos gives away all attorney-client privilege with their Voting Rights Act lawyers and other attorneys.

“We have litigation attorneys, and we have VRA attorneys, and then we have general counsel. And I feel that each one of those is unique. And that the VRA counsel I think is a little different because he has been assisting us in drawing maps,” she said.

Commissioner Brittni Kellom said releasing the memos isn’t worth the risk of threatening their lawyers’ ability to do their jobs.

”It’s not that I think that I stand on this strong podium of ‘Oh yeah, we talked about something that definitely needed to be in closed session. I’m on the fence about that. It’s what a decision like this represents in the future,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said the commission’s worst day is still better than the best day under the old system, where lawmakers drew district lines.

“I was there ten years ago when these things happened behind closed doors. People I know met in secrecy and tried to buy off politicians with the promise of a better district. So any questions that need to be addressed with this commission in its first year pale in comparison,” he said.

A motion to release the memos failed by a vote of 5-to-7. A motion to release the recording failed 4-to-8.

The state Senate has voted to ban the commission from meeting in private again.

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