Michigan gerrymandering lawsuit now up to judges

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
"I voted" stickers.

Lansing — A three-judge panel is weighing the fate of a high-profile federal lawsuit alleging gerrymandering by Republican mapmakers who drew Michigan political boundaries in 2011.

Plaintiffs who sued over the maps and Republicans who are defending them on Friday filed lengthy “proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law” that amount to closing arguments in the case, which included oral arguments in early February.

“The Republican-controlled Legislature’s objective was to entrench Republican representation and subordinate Democratic voters,” plaintiff attorneys said in a 276-page filing alleging the maps “packed” or “cracked” Democrats into certain districts to minimize their impact.

Politicians who want to gerrymander typically pack lots of voters who support the opposing party into a single district while spreading their own likely voters among multiple districts.

Internal emails and documents show Republican mapmakers discussed partisan data and faced pressure from incumbent lawmakers, but GOP attorneys contend political considerations were always secondary to strict adherence to all applicable laws. 

“While plaintiffs attempt to paint a picture of pure political gerrymandering, such characterizations fail in the face of the facts here,” attorneys for state Senate Republicans wrote in their closing argument.

It’s not clear how long the judges will take to rule in the lawsuit, which asks them to force the creation of new political maps for only the 2020 election cycle. Beginning in 2022, maps will be drawn by a new independent Michigan redistricting commission created under Proposal 2.

The three-judge panel includes two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee.


Twitter: @jonathanoosting