Detroit — A Michigan Republican consultant defended state legislative and congressional maps drawn in 2011 as fair and constitutional during Thursday testimony in federal court.

The League of Women Voters and several Democrats have accused state Republicans of gerrymandering — rigging electoral maps in their favor — and demanded in a federal lawsuit that the political boundaries be redrawn for the 2020 election. A three-judge panel took testimony over a three-day trial.

But Jeff Timmer, a longtime GOP consultant who advised state Republicans on the redistricting effort in 2011, said the process was more bipartisan than acknowledged. Even though Republicans controlled the political boundary drawing, the proposed maps received approval from some Democratic lawmakers, he said.

"I believe there were seven or eight Democrats who voted for the plan," Timmer said. "It was going to be clear that we needed Democrats to approve it."

Timmer was the only witness called by the Republican defendants. His testimony contradicted several voters and other Democratic experts and officials, who argued the process was unfair and that legislators purposely drew state House, Senate and congressional districts to favor the GOP.

The federal three-judge panel will accept more written arguments from the parties through Feb. 22. They are expected to release an opinion after then. 

 “This trial demonstrates that redistricting is an inherently political process, and the exact legal issues as play will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month,” said Charles Spies, a lawyer who represented Republican legislative and congressional intervenors in the case. 

On Wednesday, the federal judicial panel heard testimony from former state Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillion and Michael Vatter, a mapping expert with the Michigan Senate Democrats as well as other voters affected by the redistricting.

Dillon and Vatter described in detail the process of "packing and cracking" districts that the GOP-controlled Legislature used to create stronger GOP districts and ensure Republicans kept power.

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