Michigan Supreme Court rejects deadline extension for independent redistricting panel

By: - July 9, 2021 11:41 am

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announces details of Michigan’s new Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission on Oct. 24, 2019 | Claire Moore

Updated, 1:51 p.m., 7/9/21, with comment from Voters Not Politicians

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday denied the independent redistricting committee’s request for a deadline extension due to delayed U.S. Census data, throwing a wrench into the new panel’s first go at drawing new district lines for the state.

The 13-member Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC), established in 2018 via constitutional amendment by voters, will now have to use old census data while drawing new U.S. House and state House and Senate district lines for the 2022 elections.

The MICRC is constitutionally required to have its plans for new maps finalized by Nov. 1. However, due to the U.S. Census Bureau pushing back its plans to transmit new data six months late — citing the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters — that new data will now be available for Michigan on Sept. 30 rather than April 1.

Hoping to extend their own deadline, the citizen-led MICRC and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson filed a petition with the Michigan Supreme Court  in April aimed at receiving 72 days of relief for the redistricting deadlines. 

https://www.michiganadvance.com/2021/05/10/redistricting-panel-kicks-off-public-hearings-despite-questions-looming-around-census-data/

But in Friday’s order, Justice Elizabeth Welch acknowledged the panel’s difficulties while denying their request for relief.

“The Court’s decision is not a reflection on the merits of the questions briefed or how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar issues,” Welch writes in her concurring statement. “It is indicative only that a majority of this Court believes that the anticipatory relief sought is unwarranted.

“No matter how the commission chooses to proceed, if its work is challenged then it will ultimately fall to this Court ‘to determine what are the requirements of th[e] constitution and to define the meaning of those requirements in specific applications.’”

The MICRC is currently in the midst of conducting 16 public hearings around the state before it begins its work. By law, the panel cannot draw a line until at least 10 public hearings are held.

Nancy Wang, Executive Director of Voters Not Politicians, on the Michigan Supreme Court’s denial of the MICRC deadline extension request:

Voters Not Politicians, which helped lead the 2018 nonpartisan effort that eventually culminated in the creation of the MICRC, released a statement Friday saying that the court’s ruling will “not impede the Commission in any way” from its obligations.

“As the grassroots group behind the constitutional amendment that put citizens in charge of redistricting in Michigan, Voters Not Politicians has a uniquely strong interest in ensuring that the expressed will of the People who voted overwhelmingly for Proposal 2 in 2018 is carried out,” said Executive Director Nancy Wang.

“That means the Commission adopting maps based on input from communities of interest, using final 2020 Census data, and in time for the maps to be used in the 2022 elections. The Commission has, rightly, affirmed its commitment to meeting these obligations and has set a timeline. Today’s decision does not impede the Commission in any way from faithfully serving the People,” Wang added.*

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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