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Michigan redistricting commission sues for funding, long after finishing maps

Redistricting zoom meeting
Redistricting commissioners completed the maps in 2021, but have continued to meet periodically as lawsuits against their work proceed. (Screenshot)
  • The redistricting commission is suing for $3.17 million, saying it needs money to defend lawsuits
  • The independent panel was created by voters in 2018 after years of gerrymandering in Michigan
  • The group wrapped up its work on maps months ago, and a GOP spokesperson questions why group needs more money

An independent panel that drew Michigan’s political maps is suing the state after lawmakers ended the legislative year before providing the group more money for legal bills and other expenses. 

A 2018 ballot measure approved by voters created an independent commission to draw legislative and congressional boundaries every 10 years, ending a process that gave control of the process to the party in control of the Legislature.

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That created some of the nation’s most gerrymandered districts. The new maps were completed in late 2021, but the 13-member Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has continued to meet periodically as two lawsuits against its maps proceed through the courts.

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Commissioners and their attorneys first floated the possibility of suing in October, but ultimately filed in the Michigan Court of Claims Tuesday seeking just under $3.17 million after budget talks between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature fell through during the final days of the legislative session last week.

Suing the Legislature “has become necessary because the State Legislature has failed to meet its Constitutional duty” to fund the commission’s needs, attorneys wrote in the suit. 

Edward Woods III, the group’s executive director, said the group had “no other options” and would have preferred to resolve the issue with the Legislature.

Matt Sweeney, a spokesperson for the Michigan Senate Republicans, said the appropriations committee approved $1.5 million for the commission recommended by Whitmer’s office in a year-end budget bill, but noted the Legislature and governor couldn’t reach agreement. 

“The commission will have to explain to the new Legislature or the courts why they need more than double that amount,” he said. “Or perhaps why they still exist at all, since they completed their work months ago.

Lawmakers have previously approved funding for the commission totaling $13.8 million since 2019. The constitutional amendment requires the Legislature “appropriate funds sufficient to compensate the commissioners and to enable the commission to carry out its functions, operations and activities.”

Woods said the group is suing for $3.17 million because that is 25 percent of the budget for the Michigan Department of State. The constitutional amendment that created the commission stipulated it should receive a quarter of the office’s budget.

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