Michigan State University

Suit: Republican-led Legislature's District Maps Are Party Gerrymandering

Jon Harrison
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A federal lawsuit filed by a former Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) chair alleges political district maps drawn by a Republican-led Legislature is an "egregious example of party gerrymandering."

Mark Brewer, a Metro Detroit attorney, filed the lawsuit, Friday in U.S. District Court on behalf of League of Women Voters of Michigan, former state Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Fred Durhal Jr. and others against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

The suit takes a page out of a similar suit in Wisconsin in that it argues that Michigan's congressional and legislative districts creates an "efficiency gap," which measures the number of "wasted votes." Those are votes cast for the losing candidate or those not needed for the winning candidate to win.

"Michigan's durable and severe partisan gerrymander of state legislative and congressional districts violates individual plaintiff's First Amendment free speech and association rights and Fourteenth Amendment equal protect rights," Brewer wrote in the complaint. "It singles out the individual plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of other similarly-situated Michigan Democrats based on their political affiliation, and intentionally places them in voting districts that reduce or eliminate the power of their votes.

The complaint alleges the 2011 Michigan redistricting process "was a particularly egregious example of partisan gerrymandering" because Congressional and state legislative districting plans "were developed in a private, secret process by Republican consultants, legislative and legislators to the exclusion of Democrats and the public."

According to the lawsuit, Republicans congressional candidates won 47.5 percent and 50.5 percent of the statewide vote totals in 2014 and 2016, respectively, but won nine out of 14 seats each year.

GOP state Senate candidates won 50.4 percent of the statewide vote in 2014 and won 71.1 percent of the seats. They won 50.3 percent of state House votes in 2016 but control 57.3 percent of the seats.

The complaint seeks a three-judge panel to hear the case and declare the current districts unconstitutional. In the absence of establishing a more apportioned plan, the lawsuit asks the court to establish new district boundaries.

Source: "Suit: Republican-led Legislature's District Maps Are Party Gerrymandering", MIRS News Service, December 26, 2017.

MIRSNews.com is available via the MSU Library electronic resources page. Access is restricted to the MSU community and other subscribers.

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