Michigan Republicans appeal gerrymandering ruling. What you need to know.

Michigan Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal court ruling last week that found that GOP insiders created illegally gerrymandered political districts in Michigan in 2011.

August 2019: Voters Not Politicians asks to intervene in Michigan GOP redistricting suit
June 2019: What the U.S. Supreme Court gerrymandering ruling means for Michigan
June 2019: Reaction in Michigan to U.S. Supreme Court gerrymandering decision
May 24, 2019: U.S. Supreme Court halts order requiring Michigan to redraw political lines

As promised, Michigan Republicans filed a notice of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of a bombshell ruling that the state’s political districts were illegally gerrymandered and must be redrawn in time for 2020 elections.

The short filing Tuesday includes no legal arguments, which will be filed separately. Republicans are also expected to ask that the lower court’s ruling be stayed, or delayed, until the high court decides similar cases involving redistricting disputes in Maryland and North Carolina.

Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said arguments in support of a stay will be included when the request is filed in court.

Signing on to the appeals were the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate and GOP Sens. Jim Stamas of Midland, Ken Horn of Frankenmuth, and Lana Theis of Brighton; and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, state Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, and Michigan’s Republican congressional delegation, according to federal court records.

The parties said little about the procedural action Tuesday, following last week’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters of Michigan and several Democrats.

In the meantime, the state Senate will comply with the lower court’s order to redraw existing districts by Aug. 1, McCann has said, though Senate leaders have not yet said how the map-drawing process might operate.

“The Senate is reviewing (the ruling) and will be deciding next steps in the next few weeks,” McCann said Tuesday via email.

Here’s what you need to know:

What happened?  

Last week, a panel of three federal judges found that Michigan Republicans violated the 1st and 14th amendments by drawing political districts in 2011 that “deliberately dilute the power of [Democratic voters in Michigan] by placing them in districts that were intentionally drawn to ensure a particular partisan outcome.”

The judges, two appointed by a Democratic president and one by a Republican, ordered state Republicans to draw 34 new districts, which must meet the approval of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, by Aug. 1. Otherwise, a special master could be appointed to oversee the process.

Which districts are affected?

Plenty. At the very least, nine congressional, 10 state Senate and 15 state House seats would be redrawn, but redrawing those maps likely will have a domino effect that will require many others to be redrawn.

In Congress, the GOP-led Legislature would have to redraw the following districts: 1, 4, 5, and 7-12. Five of nine are held by Democrats.

In the state Senate, the Legislature would have to redraw these districts: 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 in Macomb County and southeast Michigan; 18, 22 and 27 representing areas around Ann Arbor, Brighton and Flint; 32 and 36 in mid-Michigan. Six of those districts are held by Republicans.

In the state House, the Legislature would redraw: 24 and 32 in Macomb County; 51, 52, 55 around Washtenaw and Livingston counties; 60, 62 and 63 around Kalamazoo and Battle Creek; 75 and 76 in Grand Rapids; 83 in Port Huron; 91 and 92 near Muskegon and 94 and 95 in the Saginaw area. Eight are represented by Democrats.

What happens now?

Good question.

Republicans long had sought to delay the League of Women Voters lawsuit, in part because the U.S. Supreme Court is set by June to rule on similar cases that could render any ruling in the Michigan case moot.

The high court has ruled that gerrymandering is illegal if it dilutes the votes of minorities. But it has yet to rule on whether drawing lines to help one party and hurt another – long known as gerrymandering –  is illegal.

Republicans claimed in a recent federal trial in Detroit that Michigan’s maps, although they were drawn in secret and helped the GOP maintain control of the Legislature for a decade despite getting half of total votes or fewer, were legally drawn because they met exacting standards.

In a blistering, 146-page opinion, the judges disagreed, declaring the 2011 maps a “political gerrymander of historical proportions.”

The Supreme Court, however, is decidedly more conservative.

What does this mean for 2020?

Another good question. It will be the last election in which political districts are drawn by the political party in control of Lansing, after Michigan voters last fall approved the Voters Not Politicians ballot measure that creates an independent citizen panel to oversee the process. The first election under districts following the commission’s work would be in 2022.

Any other questions?

Plenty. But one big one is what happens to state senators.

They typically serve four-year terms and are limited to two terms in Michigan. Normally, that would mean second-term senators elected in 2018 would serve through 2022. But the court’s ruling last week orders them to stand for election in new districts in 2020.

That could cut their combined terms short to six years – or theoretically extend them to 10 years if the 2020 election counts as a special election. A judge likely will have to sort out the issue.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Prof Ken in Zeeland
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 6:34pm

This is just the beginning, The constitutional changes to Gerrymandering and Election Laws here in Michigan have the potential of placing the GOP on their backs all across the state. The GOP has relied on Gerrymandered districts, voter suppression, voter ID laws, making it difficult to legally get an absentee ballot, etc to stay in power. The electorate took these weapons away from the GOP. Not only may we have different election districts, but with the polls becoming voter friendly, being open more than just one day, and same day voter registration the 2020 election may be very interesting. Will Trump and the GOP be able to win Michigan with less than 3,000 votes again? Only time will tell.

Paul Jordan
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 7:19pm

The Republican appeal of this judgement--like the gerrymandering itself--betrays the Republican's fear of the voters and contempt for democracy itself.

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 8:41pm

Nine Congressional districts are affected by the Court ruling. But Democrats have a 5-4 advantage in those 9 districts. I think the voters have already fixed the gerrymandering problem, or can I now claim that the Democrats have gerrymandered these districts?

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 3:31pm

Neither. Gerrymandering is not the same as winning an election. Election results are only part of the equation. There are ample explanations here on Bridge and elsewhere explaining the issue; I suggest reviewing them more carefully.

Prof Ken in Zeeland
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 9:08pm

So requiring a valid means of Identification for something so important as voting is somehow suppression. That's ludicrous! Are you sure you're a REAL professor?

Mary Fox
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 10:06pm

The requirement for valid id does place an unfair burden on women, on the poor, and on anyone who must PURCHASE new id. Men generally keep their names for life. women generally do not. Collecting a trail of name changes from weddings, divorces, moves may seem simple for you, but for people with multiple names, it may not. And not everyone has an extra fifty to make the changes. Not everyone drives.

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:39am

Come on Mary! You need a government ID for all sorts of things from banking to travel so this whining is nonsense. So, women in your example have money for divorces but not money for an ID? Plus, you aren't required to change your name if that's really an issue. But of course it’s not!

Fred J
Thu, 05/02/2019 - 6:19pm

I’ll admit its been a while since I’ve done any traveling , but I don’t recall needing I’d to do it.

Fred J
Thu, 05/02/2019 - 6:19pm

I’ll admit its been a while since I’ve done any traveling , but I don’t recall needing I’d to do it.

Geoffrey Owen
Wed, 05/01/2019 - 12:45am

Elections worked fine for Michigan's first 150 years as a state without voter ID laws. I had voted for 30 years without having to prove my identity at a polling place. On that day I felt that something sacred had been taken from me. The feeling was one of abhorrence. I had proven who I was when I registered to vote. The voting records showed my signature at least 15 times, many times before the very same officals asking for my ID. Voter ID laws are designed for voter suppression and no other purpose. Voter ID laws and gerrymandering, as done by the GOP in Michigan, subverts democracy. Ludicrous is the belief that the party can get away with it. We are a long way from free and fair elections and my fear isn't what we learn from the Russians, but what they might learn from Republicans.

Paul Jordan
Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:01am

Any requirement that government places on citizens regarding a central duty of citizenship such as voting should not impose any cost on citizens. If government i.d. is required for voting, then government i.d. cards and driver's licenses should be free to everyone.
If it imposes a cost on citizens then--yes--it is voter suppression due to its disparate negative impact on poor people.

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 3:28pm

So the tax payers should pick up the cabfare to bring them to the polls then too?

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 12:18pm

Why not? Voter turnout in America is abysmal, why not try to actively encourage? Oh wait, sorry, you're a Libertarian who don't actually believe in democracy. Silly me for suggesting something so radical

Mrs A
Tue, 04/30/2019 - 10:23pm

Far fewer than half the citizens vote for their party, last fall voters swept in three women from the other party and overwhelmingly passed a referendum to take way their phony districting advantage, and now three federal judges confirm they are cheaters, but do the Republicans have a clue yet? No, they're going to delay and obstruct and appeal their way right into political oblivion.

Bob Potocki
Wed, 05/01/2019 - 3:22am

Facts are Facts.
It's plain and clear that our elections were rigged and that this legislature is illegitimate. It's called treasonous. Stark. Plain. Evil.
Dissolve this badly flawed political body and hold new elections.
Shame on Senator Theis and her colleagues who again fails to defend the common good.
For personal interest.