Activist sues redistricting commission over delayed map timeline

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Robert Davis is suing Michigan's Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission in anticipation that the group will miss its constitutional deadline for producing draft voting district maps. 

The commission, which didn't receive delayed census data until August, has been public about it's inability to make either the Sept. 17 deadline for draft maps or the Nov. 1 deadline for adopting a final plan. Both deadlines are outlined in the Constitution.

On Tuesday, the group approved a new schedule that would see draft maps completed by the end of the month, followed by about a month and a half of public hearings, then 45 days of public comment starting Nov. 14. The commission hopes to take a final vote on the maps by the end of December. 

Davis, a Highland Park man and serial litigant representing himself, is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to force the commission to finish the maps by the deadlines outlined in the voter-approved 2018 constitutional amendment that created the redistricting commission.

Pam Weinstein, 74, of Rosedale Park speaks at the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting for public comments at the TCF Center in Detroit on June 17, 2021.

"Despite having the required 2020 census data, the defendant has chosen to deliberately ignore the clear mandate set forth under (the Michigan Constitution)," Davis' filing said. 

The Michigan Independent Citizens' Redistricting Commission declined comment. 

"The MICRC has not been properly served with a lawsuit from anyone," said Edward Woods, a spokesman for the commission. "As a result, the MICRC does not comment on speculative lawsuits."

Davis' request marks the second time in recent months that the delayed census data and the resulting conflict with the constitutional deadlines have come before the Supreme Court. 

Earlier this year, the redistricting commission asked the high court to move the deadline preemptively in a bid to avoid lawsuits alleging a deadline violation. 

The Supreme Court declined to move the deadlines, noting such a decision would be premature ahead of any violation of the timeline. 

Davis argued that when the high court refused the commission the relief it sought, the court cited cases that ruled deadlines were "directory" and others that found deadlines were "mandatory."

Davis argued the deadlines were only the latter, and that the commission "had no intention to comply" with the deadlines.

"These mandatory deadlines are necessary in order to ensure that interested parties have time to challenge the plans adopted by the defendant and they also ensure that potential candidates have adequate time to obtain the requisite number of signatures in the respective new districts," the filing said.