Benson: Redrawing Detroit districts by spring ‘threatens’ 2024 elections
- State elections officials argue changing Detroit districts ahead of 2024 primaries ‘threatens an orderly administration’ of election cycle
- Detroit voters suing for new districts argue U.S. Supreme Court should let lower court’s ruling ordering a map redraw stand
- Michigan’s redistricting commission this week began the process of redrawing metro Detroit maps
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wants the U.S. Supreme Court to hold off any redraws of metro Detroit’s state legislative districts, arguing in a court filing that changing the map before the 2024 primary “threatens an orderly administration” of the election.
The filing comes after weeks of legal turmoil over the city of Detroit’s legislative districts, which were deemed unconstitutional by a federal-three judge panel on Dec. 21.
Michigan’s independent redistricting commission this week began the process of adjusting district lines after the panel ordered commissioners to deliver a draft of new districts by Feb. 2.
- Federal judges set aggressive timeline to redraw state House district maps
- Can Michigan redistricting panel play nice, draw legal maps? It may get messy
- Detroit legislative districts could be redrawn by spring, court suggests
Barring Supreme Court intervention, mapmakers are on the hook for delivering new lines after a group of metro Detroiters successfully challenged the current maps on grounds that commissioners improperly used racial data to dilute the power of Black voters.
The federal panel denied a redistricting commission request to pause its ruling during the appeals process, citing time constraints in getting the House maps redrawn ahead of the November 2024 elections.
A three-judge panel in December deemed the following state political districts unconstitutional and ordered them redrawn. Reconfiguring the districts could affect adjoining ones as well, causing other changes. Here are the ones at issue:
- House District 1, represented by Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit
- House District 7, represented by Rep. Helena Scott, D-Detroit
- House District 8, represented by Rep. Mike McFall, D-Hazel Park
- House District 10, represented by House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit
- House District 11, represented by Rep. Veronica Paiz, D-Harper Woods
- House District 12, represented by Rep. Kimberly Edwards, D-Eastpointe
- House District 14, represented by Rep. Donavan McKinney, D-Detroit
- Senate District 1, represented by Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor
- Senate District 3, represented by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit
- Senate District 6, represented by Sen. Mary Cavanagh, D-Redford Township
- Senate District 8, represented by Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak
- Senate District 10, represented by Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren
- Senate District 11, represented by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe
Attorneys for the Secretary of State have remained neutral on the constitutionality of the commission’s work.
But in a filing sent to the nation’s highest court Wednesday, the Attorney General’s office noted that Benson supports a stay stopping the lower court’s order to redraw the districts “to the extent it requires her to implement new district lines in time for that election.”
“Until a new plan is drawn … it remains uncertain whether the Secretary can put in place district changes without risk of error or disruption to the August 2024 primary election,” the filing reads, adding that the possibility of other court-ordered changes in coming months could leave election officials, candidates and voters “whipsawed.”
Attorneys for the Detroit voters challenging the commission’s work contested Benson’s opinion, asking Supreme Court justices to let the lower court’s order stand and allow the redrawing prior to 2024 elections to proceed.
“The Commission had no excuse to draw maps based on race in the first place,” the plaintiffs’ filing states, arguing that the facts of the case “moots any need for a stay or this Court’s review.”
If the federal three-judge panel’s decision stands, the redistricting commission will need to post a new state House draft map for public comment by Feb. 2. That allows roughly two months to finalize the boundaries.
A timeline to redraw six Senate districts will come later, with a hearing set for April 12. The judges determined that a request by the Detroit voters suing the commission to hold special elections in those districts in 2024 wouldn't be possible.
On the House maps, the public comment period will end Feb. 23 and the commission’s final product is due in court by March 1, the judges said. Following review by plaintiffs and court-appointed experts, the court will approve a new slate of metro Detroit House districts by March 29.
While the commission is working, a court-appointed expert — political science professor Michael Barber of Brigham Young University — will come up with an alternate version in the event the commission’s House plan doesn’t meet court expectations.
A separate court-appointed expert is expected to review the commission's work and report back to the court as to whether it meets constitutional requirements.
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