Redistricting commission to ask High Court to push map deadline to Jan. 25

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will ask the Michigan Supreme Court to extend the deadline by which they must complete the state's new voting district maps from Nov. 1 to Jan. 25. 

The group also voted unanimously Thursday to request the high court move the filing deadline for the August primary from April 19, 2022 to May 14, 2022 to allow the state Bureau of Elections more time to update the qualified voter file after the districts are redrawn. 

Supporters of an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission gather outside the Michigan Supreme Court on July 18, 2018

"The proposed dates reflect a balanced compromise to allow the maximum time for each entity to conduct its work," the commission's general counsel Julianne Pastula said in a Tuesday memo to the commission. 

Pastula noted that it's possible the Census Bureau could still deliver complete or "legacy" data used in the redistricting process before the newly announced Sept. 30.

But if it doesn't, the Sept. 30 target will create an irreconcilable delay with the timeline set forth in a 2018 constitutional amendment for redrawing the state House, state Senate and congressional districts. 

Under the constitutional language that created the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, the maps must be available for public comment for 45 days before the Nov. 1 deadline for voting on the final maps. The Nov. 1 deadline would require the maps be available to the public Sept. 17, 13 days before the Sept. 30 release of data needed to draw the maps.

The new timeline would give the commission until Dec. 11 — or more than 70 days after receiving the data Sept. 30 — to submit its proposed plan to the Department of State. Public comment would then run from Dec. 12 through Jan. 25.

Any delay to the Nov. 1 deadline will likely have a domino effect on the Bureau of Elections' efforts to align the state's qualified voter file with the new district maps. 

The work includes moving large groups of people from one district to another depending on which new district a community falls within, as well as address-by-address adjustments depending on precisely where a boundary falls. Precincts also may need to be changed for some voters.

Pushing the candidate filing deadline to May 14 will allow the Department of State an extra 25 days for a total of roughly 3 months and 20 days where it would usually have six months to sort through the qualified voter file, said Mike Brady of the Department of State.

"We’re going to do everything possible to make that date work," he said. 

Between May and June, the 13-member redistricting commission will hold 16 public hearings to receive input on the maps ahead of the Sept. 30 release of data.