Court rejects rehearing of GOP cases to bar redistricting commission 

By: - June 19, 2020 3:03 pm

Anti-gerrymandering protest, October 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. | Olivier Douliery, Getty Images

Republicans have challenged the constitutionality of Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied requests to rehear the cases en banc.

A 13-member commission of Democrats, Republicans and independents is supposed to draw lines for congressional, state House and state Senate districts after the 2020 census, something that was previously done by the Legislature.

Voters approved the change in Proposal 2 of 2018. More than 6,000 people have applied to be on the panel.

Tony Daunt, the Republican activist who filed the first lawsuit, argued that Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson excluded the plaintiffs from serving on the commission due to its eligibility criteria, which prohibit eight classes of individuals with certain current or past political ties from serving as a commissioner. 

GOP loses appeal to stop independent redistricting commission

Daunt is the executive director of the DeVos-funded Michigan Freedom Fund and treasurer of the Clinton County Republican Party. He previously worked for Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Republican Party and former Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe).

“Our democracy demands a fair process, not one that’s gamed to give those in power advantages over others,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release . “Today’s order reaffirms what the courts have already held twice — that the people’s decision in 2018 to entrust ordinary citizens, and not politicians, with the important task of drawing the district lines within which our leaders are elected, is constitutional.” 

The second lawsuit, filed by the Michigan Republican Party, argued that the commission violated the First Amendment based on its selection process, composition and restrictions on the commissioners’ ability to speak publicly about redistricting matters. 

In April, the court ruled against a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the redistricting commission. On Friday, the court ruled that the issues raised in the petitions were already considered and did not need another hearing.

The petitions were circulated to the full court, but no judge requested a vote on the suggestion for a rehearing in front of the full 16-judge panel.

Voters Not Politicians, the group behind Proposal 2, claimed victory.

“It’s time for these attacks by the Michigan Republican Party and special interests against Michigan’s voter-approved, citizen-led redistricting process to end. Every single judge to have considered these meritless lawsuits has affirmed the people’s power to put voters – not politicians – in charge of redistricting in our state,” Executive Director Nancy Wang said in a statement Friday. “That includes today, when not a single judge of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals requested a vote to rehear the challenge to Michigan’s first Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.