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Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments about lack of majority-Black districts in political maps

redistricting map
Michigan Independent Citizen Redistricting Commissions
A draft map shows a set of proposed Michigan House districts from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Do Michigan’s new political re-districting maps violate the Voting Rights Act? That’s the question the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments about Wednesday.

A group of Detroit lawmakers is suing the state’s new independent redistricting commission over the maps. They object to the fact that new maps greatly reduce the number of districts in which Black voters make up a majority.

Nabih Ayad is the Detroit Caucus’s attorney. He said they want the court to send the commission back to the drawing board when it comes to those particular districts.

“Send them back to say ‘draw this to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act Section 2, [so] that you don’t dilute the African American majority-minority districts,’” Ayad said.

But the redistricting commission argued the lawmakers don’t have a legal claim. They argue that the Voting Rights Act only requires drawing majority-minority districts under certain circumstances, and that map-makers don’t create districts where white voters, together as a bloc, can consistently defeat candidates that Black voters prefer.

“The Voting Rights Act will not step in and require majority-minority districts to be drawn where the minority community in that area has an opportunity elect its candidates of choice at less than a majority in their districts,” said Katherine McKnight, an attorney for the redistricting commission. “And that’s precisely what happened in Michigan.”

The redistricting commission is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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