Advance Notice: Briefs

Supreme Court throws out 1st lawsuit challenging new redistricting maps

By: - February 4, 2022 9:37 am

Michigan Supreme Court | | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit Thursday against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) claiming that the newly drawn and adopted redistricting maps would disenfranchise Black voters and break a federal voting rights law. 

The lawsuit was originally filed by the Detroit Caucus, a group of Black metro Detroit state House and Senate members, and additionally included local officials and residents. The group claimed the maps were in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and unjustly split up Detroit’s Black voters. 

In a 4-3 decision, the court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence to support its assertion that the commission should have kept the same number of majority-minority districts. 

The order said that the plaintiffs did not identify “grounds or legal authority that would allow” the court to “question the Commission’s decision not to draw race-based, majority-minority districts.” 

The unsigned order came from three Democratic-nominated justices — Bridget McCormack, Megan Cavanagh and Elizabeth Welch — as well as GOP-nominated Elizabeth Clement.

Three justices dissented: GOP-nominated David Viviano and Brian Zahra and Democratic-nominated Richard Bernstein. They said in the order that the majority of justices failed “to adequately grapple with the evidence and factual assertions that plaintiffs have put forward.” The dissenting judges also said the court should have enlisted an independent expert to assist in reviewing the case. 

“We believe, by contrast, that it is too soon to rule on the merits of this case and that plaintiffs deserve an opportunity to prove their case,” the three justices said. “They deserve their day in court.”

There remain two more lawsuits challenging the MICRC. One was filed by seven Michigan Republicans who claimed the approved congressional maps were “non-neutral,” “arbitrary,” and discarded community boundaries.

The second was filed earlier this week by a coalition of voting rights organizations who were challenging the MICRC’s Michigan House map for its “political fairness.” The group claimed the maps gave an advantage to Republicans. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.