Reaction in Michigan to U.S. Supreme Court gerrymandering decision

The Supreme Court decision was a win for Michigan Republicans, who appealed a lower court decision that would have required them to redraw district lines before 2020.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Thursday that federal courts have no role in deciding whether state political lines are the product of partisan gerrymandering; that is, drawing legislative or congressional maps to favor one political party over another. That drew quick responses from Michigan politicians and others who have skin in the game. 

Here’s what two justices and Michigan leaders had to say: 

U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion: 

“Deciding among just these different visions of fairness (you can imagine many others) poses basic questions that are political, not legal. There are no legal standards discernible in the Constitution for making such judgments, let alone limited and precise standards that are clear, manageable, and politically neutral. Any judicial decision on what is ‘fair’ in this context would be an ‘unmoored determination’ of the sort characteristic of a political question beyond the competence of the federal courts.”

“Our conclusion does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering. Nor does our conclusion condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void.”

Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissent: 

“For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities. And not just any constitutional violation. The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.”

Statewide officeholders

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat:

“Gerrymandering undermines the basic idea of open and free elections — regardless of political affiliation. It’s disappointing that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review this unfair practice, despite several other courts declaring partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. This is why passage of [Michigan’s] Proposal 2 was so crucial to ensure Michigan has fair maps and fair representation. As governor, I will continue to do my job to ensure that voters can pick their elected officials, not the other way around.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat: 

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today closes a vital door for citizens seeking recourse in a fundamental part of our representative democracy. This decision makes it even more important that last fall Michigan voters took the process of drawing district lines out of the hands of politicians and placed it squarely in the hands of our citizens. With clarity from the courts we will move forward to implement the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for the 2022 elections and actively engage all of our citizens in a transparent process that leads to fair districts for all.”

Legislative leaders

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering:

“The Supreme Court did the right thing upholding the will of the voters and leaving state policy decisions to the people of Michigan and their elected representatives.”

Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake:

“Today's ruling suggests that a federal court should not be in the business of redrawing Michigan’s Senate maps mid-term, as we have argued all along. However, our case is still pending and we await action from the Supreme Court regarding Michigan.”

House Democratic Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills:

“The right to vote is both the bedrock principle of our country and the source of the people’s trust in their elected officials. The Court had a significant opportunity today to help put a stop to the damage caused by political gerrymandering, but chose instead to reject their most important responsibility. This decision shows us the importance of fully committing ourselves to implementing the voter-approved measures that would provide greater access to voting and put the redistricting process in the hands of the people. The fight for fair elections is far from over and today’s ruling only means we have a tougher fight ahead of us, but it’s a fight we’re ready for.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint: 

“Now that we know that the U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene to redraw lines, it’s even more of a good thing that Michigan voters put an end to partisan gerrymandering at the ballot box last November. Because voters made the right call, we will have fairly drawn maps by the next time the Michigan Senate is up for reelection. Other states should follow our lead.”

Congressional delegation

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township: 

“I am disappointed in today’s decision. Following the 2010 Census, the Michigan state legislature drew what has been widely regarded as some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. Politicians shouldn’t be able to pick their own voters, and Michiganders spoke loud and clear last November that the current redistricting process is in desperate need of reform. I have confidence that the Citizens Redistricting Commission will use the 2020 Census to create fairer districts and representation that reflects the will of voters.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn: 

“Today’s decision is a sad day for our democracy... While I disagree with the Court’s ruling in this case, this only makes it clearer that Congress needs to act. H.R. 1, the For the People Act, contains many critical protections to protect the right to vote, including a requirement that states adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purposes of drawing Congressional districts. While I’m pleased that Michigan will have a citizen’s commission in place for the 2022 election, we need these protections at the federal level as well.” 

Political parties

Lavora Barnes, Michigan Democratic Party Chair:

“The unfortunate reasoning displayed today by the conservative majority of our U.S. Supreme Court should remind all Michiganders that elections have consequences. This decision, while disappointing, is not surprising. To protect our rights, we must cast our votes for people that share our values and are concerned for the hard-working families of Michigan and their challenges. The voters of Michigan have already spoken, and they want fair elections and their voices heard — not after the next election, not down the road — now.”

Laura Cox, Michigan Republican Party Chair:

“The Michigan Republican Party applauds today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court. This ruling effectively ends Jocelyn Benson’s attempt to redraw our state’s legislative districts one year early, and benefit her political party at the expense of Michigan voters. This ruling is a victory for the people of Michigan and upholds the concept of judicial restraint.”


Judy Karandjeff, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, a plaintiff in Michigan’s case challenging Republican maps:

“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is disappointing and will allow those who rigged Michigan’s elections based on partisanship off the hook in federal courts. However, with the new independent redistricting proposal in Michigan that the majority of voters supported in 2018, we look forward to a new system being used in 2021 to draw districts for the next decade...We look forward to educating voters on the importance of applying for the new redistricting commission.”

Voters Not Politicians, the ballot committee behind the successful 2018 Proposal 2 initiative to create an independent citizens redistricting commission in Michigan: 

“We are dismayed that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to protect the millions of voters across the country whose constitutional rights are violated by extreme partisan gerrymandering. Michiganders showed that gerrymandering is an issue that impacts all voters, whether we are Republicans, Democrats, Independents or third party supporters...These anti-democratic practices have run rampant, and today’s decision will only further embolden politicians in the next redistricting cycle. Voters have had enough.”

Tony Daunt, executive director of Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative advocacy group:

“The Supreme Court today declared that Michigan voters and Michigan taxpayers come before liberal extremists and special interests. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has spent too many months and too many state resources pursuing bogus settlements in this rejected case, instead of keeping her badly broken campaign promises and branch-office wait time guarantees. After today’s rebuke by the Court, we encourage her to finally get to work on behalf of the Michigan motorists spending hours in line in branch offices across the state.”

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Jonah 4
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 3:22pm

The Conservatives rule the Supreme Court and have ruled that arbitrary and political games to control the States and the Nation politically are okay. They just take up and support the want to be autocrat in the White House and they support racial gerrymandering. The five conservative justices are a blight on democracy. While impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court will not occur, it really should happen.
On the other hand, with this decision, the five Conservatives have clearly laid out a case that the court is of no value to democracy given the decisions they have made about gerrymandering, minority voting rights and employment rights. It is time for a constitutional amendment to ban gerrymandering since this Supreme Court just supports the Republican cause. Shame on the five and especially two who have very checkered pasts.

Geoffrey Owen
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:39pm

Are we to look forward to the day that the supreme court rules that the constitution was never meant to construe democracy? Bush v Gore. The Votings Rights Act. And now they legitimaze extreme racial and political gerrymandering. More precedent for the day that SCOTUS can void any and all elections.

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 3:50pm

The Michigan Freedom Fund is decidedly not a grassroots organization; they're funded by the DeVos family and fronted by their minions

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 11:21am

Yep, thankfully, Voters not Politicians and League of Women Voters are the purest of non-partisan entities without a speck of connection to the evil political parties!

John M
Tue, 07/02/2019 - 9:49am

I'm curious what evidence you can cite that the League of Women Voters is "partisan"? You may also have to try and use the word accurately and clearly and not just fling it around recklessly. I'd like to understand what "partisan" means when you use the word. These sorts of charges are always flung out without any accompanying cites to an actual factual basis for them. Have you noticed that? So, help us out by citing yours, please.

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:24am

So now we can't admit that a given organization skews one ideological way or another? Clearly LWV sides with the Democratic party way more often than the other direction or just point out where they haven't. How about the Sierra Club? ACLU? MEA? All non partisan? It is even more interesting that this fact can't be admitted.

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 3:39pm

I think that speaks more to Republicans ‘ commitment to voting rights than it does to being partisan.

Bryan Watson
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 3:51pm

In this decision, the Court abandons any idea that rigging an election is subject to judicial review. Roberts accepts that the Court cannot intervene in political actions. But every gerrymandering effort is a political action - the whole of the Voting Rights Act s done to correct political, not racial, discrimination. After all, the reason Republicans today want to pack people of color is not because of their color but because they might vote against the Republicans.

Any future gerrymandering effort can now be justified by simply declaring that these people of color are being segregated because they are Democrats or liberals. That is nonsense.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:15pm

Two jurists ducking difficult questions: Pontius Pilate asked, "What is 'truth'?" and Chief John Roberts asks, "What is 'fairness'?"

Paul Jordan
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:18pm

Question: Where was this Supreme Court's restraint in elections in Bush v. Gore?
Answer: Nowhere. These Republican judges reserve their judicial restraint only for special occasions like this.

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:35pm

For every voice that disagrees with the Supreme Court decision, there is another voice that agrees with that decision. For every voter who feels their votes do not count, there are an equal number of voters that feel the elected officials match exactly their desire. For one side of the political spectrum that was a plantif in the case, there was an opposite side that was also a plantif in this case.

It would be nice to live in a place where we could always get our way, but absent the forced deportation of those that do not think like us, this will never happen. And since we can’t pick and choose our fellow citizens, it is time to stop the bickering and learn to live together. The United States can’t be such a bad place to live with all the people from outside wanting to live here.

middle of the mit
Tue, 07/02/2019 - 3:18am

["It would be nice to live in a place where we could always get our way, but absent the forced deportation of those that do not think like us, this will never happen. And since we can’t pick and choose our fellow citizens,]"

What a bastion of one person one vote you are!

Reading those words, it almost seems as though you would like to deport fellow Americans!

How do you feel about American citizens who bring illegals into this country for THEIR EMPLOYMENT? You know, I like to refer to them as ILLEGAL EMPLOYERS AND ILLEGAL LANDLORDS ? How else do you think people who can't read or speak English get fake SS docs?

All on their own?

John Q. Public
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 7:53pm

Seeing the unanimously partisan ruling, and the unanimously partisan responses to it again raises the question: Why should we believe in the rule of law? This is a nation of men, not laws.

I reached that conclusion years ago, and shortly thereafter started ignoring laws I don't agree with, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Stories such as this one affirm that there's not even the slightest reason to feel guilt or remorse about living that way.

Thomas Doyle
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 8:48pm

Does anyone know why both Michigan and North Carolina did not pursue a verdict based on the States legislators overriding the popular vote from the 2018 election to protect their own interests.
We are supposed to be a democratic union. What the legislative branch did was purely autocrat in nature. Hopefully the states attorneys general will work to get the case re-heard and there will not be any room for the republican Supreme Court to refuse the will of the voters.
I hope that this is a lesson for Michigan voters:

Geoffrey Owen
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:34pm

We cannot make a political issue out of this so we will back the partisan mistakes that have been made. What kind of consensus of constitutional law does this represent? The attempts to make districting along partisan lines have been ruled illegal and Judge Roberts has rules that they can stand. The Michigan people have spoken otherwise and we had better do everything we can to defend our right to fair districting and fair elections.

Thor of the North
Fri, 06/28/2019 - 7:34am

Did anyone read the 3500 word law that was passed?
Do you know all Districts are to be redrawn EXCEPT 2?
As far as I am concerned it is either all get redrawn or none.
This the same system used in California

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 11:16am

So where does the constitution specify the method that state legislature must use to draw legislative district lines? It just isn't there. The court is right, get over it and be happy they don't declare the whole prop 2 unconstitutional. There's nothing there that that specifically supports that defacto (US) constitutional amendment either.

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 11:26am

It's strange when gerrymandered Democrat minority districts were created making the strangest contortions, this same line-up was amazingly quiet.

Sat, 06/29/2019 - 9:26am

What I think is strange, or ironic, is this statement from House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering:
“The Supreme Court did the right thing upholding the will of the voters and leaving state policy decisions to the people of Michigan and their elected representatives.”
The people of Michigan have spoken: Stop political gerrymangering; yet it is the Republican polititions who are doing everything they can to thwart the will of the voters on this issue.

Gary Lea
Sun, 06/30/2019 - 7:42am

Michigan is now one of 28 states (plus the District of Columbia) allowing no reason absentee voting. Governing by all the action!

John M
Tue, 07/02/2019 - 9:59am

Perhaps the plaintiffs might admit that state court is the proper jurisdiction to challenge Rethuglican efforts to dismantle democracy in Michigan, via fixing its elections so it always wins. Apparently winning by merit isn't gonna happen until that party has an idea with merit to it that attracts a real, and not one of their manufactured, majorities. Cheating to win is not perfectly fine in the defense of the "freedom" of the conscienceless to exploit the rest of us for their benefit. Voters, please think how preferable a fair society would be over one on which almost all lose so few only greatly prosper beyond their needs or deserts. We cannot achieve that with Republicans fixing our elections so that only they remain in power.

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 3:33pm

Interesting that Benson is getting blamed for trying to save time and money by settling.