Groups to challenge partisan fairness of Michigan House map

LANSING (AP) — Several groups announced Friday they will sue to challenge Michigan's new state House map, alleging it is biased toward Republicans and should be redrawn to be fairer to Democrats on a partisan basis.

The lawsuit, to be filed in the Michigan Supreme Court this week, will be the third seeking to block congressional or legislative plans created by a new independent citizens redistricting commission.

“The whole point of passing Proposal 2 was to get rid of gerrymandering and to ensure fair maps,” said Susan Smith, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “Partisan fairness must be our top priority and must be as close to zero as possible because these maps will influence our elections for the next 10 years.”

Other plaintiffs will include the community organizing group Detroit Action, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, the National Network for Arab American Communities and yet-to-be-named organizations and individuals.

The 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment that created the panel says districts “shall not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party.” It is the fourth-ranked criteria, behind requirements such as compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act and reflecting the state's "diverse population and communities of interest.”

The commission's own analysis, which is based on past elections, shows a pro-GOP tilt in various scores used to measure partisan fairness for the new House districts: the efficiency gap (4.3%), lopsided margins (5.3%) and mean-median difference (2.7%). A fourth metric, though, indicates that the party that wins the most votes statewide would control the House majority.

That frequently did not happen in the past decade under maps drawn by the GOP-led Legislature. In 2014, for instance, Democratic House candidates won the overall two-party statewide vote, 51% to 49%, yet Republicans secured a 63-47 edge in the House. The chamber has been in Republican hands since 2011 despite big years for top-of-the-ticket Democrats, including Barack Obama and Gretchen Whitmer.

“If partisan fairness isn't achieved, our communities will continue to face representatives with outsized influence, policies further out of touch with our needs and elected officials who are out of touch with our communities,” said Branden Snyder, co-executive director of Detroit Action.

The groups' lawyer, Mark Brewer, said the suit will request that the justices order the commissioners to pass a new plan.

“The commission's own lawyer told them they had to strive to get to zero on the partisan fairness measures. The alternative map we will file next week shows that they could have done better,” he said.

A message seeking comment was left with the panel's spokesperson.

Republicans earlier this month sued to block the U.S. House map, alleging it is not compact and overly splits municipal boundaries. Black lawmakers earlier filed suit against the congressional, state House and State Senate plans, saying they hurt Black voters' ability to elect African American candidates.


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