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Michigan Republican Party Sues To Stop Independent Commission From Redrawing Fairer Districts

A voter-approved commission in Michigan, intended to redraw political boundaries in a fairer way, is being challenged in the courts by the state’s Republican Party, which alleges the new law is unconstitutional.

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

A 2018 midterm ballot initiative, popularly called Proposal 2, passed with 61 percent of voters endorsing the establishment of a new commission, and will include four members from each major political party in the state, plus five independent members. They will be charged with producing political maps for the state, in accordance with the U.S. Constitutional mandate on redrawing such boundaries after the decennial census.

Prior to the vote last fall, the measure received over 425,000 signatures to get on the ballot itself, and survived legal challenges from the Michigan Republican Party, which tried to stop a vote on it from happening, The Economist reported.

A new lawsuit this week from the party, however, alleges that the measure denies the GOP its First Amendment association rights.

As it stands right now, the commission would be crafted from individuals who sign up for it, with 60 individuals self-identified as Democrats, 60 self-identified as Republicans, and 80 who identify as independents, being picked at random from across the state. From those lists, the secretary of state of Michigan would choose at random four individuals from each of the two parties, plus five members from the group of independents, to formally belong to the commission.

Party leaders would also be able to “strike” any individual that the secretary of state would choose, if they believe they would be unfit to serve on the commission — either from another party’s potential picks, or from their own group if they believe that person is not an adequate representation of their party’s interests. Each party can strike up to 20 individuals, Detroit News reported.

The worry from Republicans is that individuals who are actually Democratic-leaning in their politics could sign up to be part of the GOP group that the secretary of state would randomly choose from. They are suing the state, alleging that the process is unconstitutional, hoping that the courts will revert to the old system — which would allow the party in power to redraw political boundaries. Conveniently, that would be the Republicans in the state legislature.

Democrats, however, point out that the system treats everyone fairly, and that, to be considered for the commission, one must attest under oath that they belong to the party that they sign up for, or are unaffiliated with any party if they want to be part of the independent group. Violation of that oath could result in severe penalties.

“The entire point of Proposal 2 is taking the politics out of our democracy and putting power back in the hands of the people. That is where Michigan Democrats stand on this and every issue — with the people,” the state’s Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes added.



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