Opinion: Supreme Court puts voters first, not politicians

Jase Bolger

Voters in Michigan have one more thing to celebrate this July Fourth, as we commemorate our nation’s founding and the establishment of a government where it’s the people in charge, not partisan special interests.

Late last week, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a landmark redistricting ruling upholding our nation’s Constitution by dismissing a political power play by Michigan Democrats. The big winner in the decision? Michigan voters and the rule of law.

The Supreme Court

The court’s decision put to rest a longstanding legal battle between a liberal special interest group with powerful politician allies and the voters of the state of Michigan. The politicians filed a lawsuit several years ago attempting to overturn the state’s legislative district maps two years before the constitutional process of new map drawing is to begin again.

Had the politicians and lower federal court succeeded, voters across the state would have been shamefully disenfranchised. And, when it came to the state senate, their decisions last November would have been tossed out. The Supreme Court was right to put its foot down.

The faces of the lawsuit were Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and a handful of Democratic donors, and the lawyer representing them was former Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer. They found an enthusiastic ally in Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, to whose campaign many of the plaintiffs had donated, and to whom Brewer considered himself a "political mentor."

Jase Bolger

They claimed that the state’s legislative district boundaries were unfairly drawn because some weren’t perfect squares on a map. Ignoring that many jagged lines in maps are those of city boundaries, whose lines are often less than straight lines because of rivers, lakes or history, their claims completely fall apart when compared to states with so-called independent commissions like those for which they advocate. For an interesting exercise, compare Michigan’s 1st Congressional district to Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. Or, compare Michigan’s 2nd Congressional district to California’s 2nd District.  Arizona and California were drawn by a so-called independent commission while Michigan’s maps were drawn by officials held accountable by the public. Just a quick glance demonstrates Michigan’s districts are far more compact.

There were flawed claims that maps were drawn to prevent Democrats from winning, but the facts show this isn’t true, either. Map drawers in 2011 went to great lengths to ensure the state’s political boundaries complied with every state and federal law, that districts were compact, respected county and municipal boundary lines, and ensured racial and ethnic minority majority districts under the Federal Voting Rights Act.

An examination of the facts demonstrate that Democrats have been able to regularly win in a majority of these districts since 2011. In fact, 87 of the 110 Michigan House of Representatives districts have been carried by a Democrat, and only 64 have ever been won by a Republican. Even in a district when Republicans won a seat in the state House, the district has often been carried by a Democrat somewhere else on the ticket.  In 2012, for example, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow won in 87 Michigan house seats while the voters elected 59 Republicans, a majority, in the same districts on the same ballot. That’s voters choosing their representative, not Democrat disadvantage. And, this demonstrably proves that the left’s problem has been bad candidates, not bad maps.

Still, Tlaib and Democrat donors wanted power and they sued to get it. They even attempted to collude with Benson on a secret backroom deal that would have redrawn dozens of districts, ignored others they’d long claimed were unfair but were now represented by allied politicians, and sought to funnel millions in tax dollars to Benson’s backer, Mark Brewer.

In resoundingly rejecting the unjust liberal power grab, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions."

It was a telling line and digs at the heart of the Democrat’s scheme. Their lawsuit and attempted settlements were never about fairness — a plain examination of the current maps prove that. Theirs was always a partisan power grab; an attempt to reallocate political power, taking it out of the peoples’ hands, and putting it into their own.

The Supreme Court has now rebuked those who would disenfranchise Michigan voters. The Court backed voters, not politicians.

Jase Bolger was a speaker of the Michigan House from 2011-14.