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issues - redistricTing matters

The League of Women Voters supports an Independent Commission as a solution to the problems with Michigan's current redistricting process. We are pleased that Proposal 2 was passed by Michigan voters in the November, 2018 election. This constitutional amendment will establish an impartial commission of voters (not politicians) who will be charged with creating new district maps for state and congressional offices that cannot favor one party or candidate, following the 2020 census. This commission will operate in a completely transparent manner and will create maps based on fair criteria. 

Michigan's political districts are redrawn every decade following receipt of the new Census data This process typically takes place behind closed doors, with districts designed to benefit the political party in power at the time.

The Michigan Legislature is responsible for drawing the state's Congressional and State legislative districts and the Governor has veto authority over the adopted plan. Redistricting also takes place at the local level for county commissions and city councils and other governmental bodies that are elected by ward or district.


The way district lines are drawn can keep our communities together or split them apart. Although the Legislature is bound by some legal standards, they can also establish and prioritize criteria for drawing districts. In addition to legal criteria, information about voters' political leanings is used to project which party the district is likely to support. This allows for partisan gerrymandering – drawing lines to cluster voters according to whether they are likely to vote Democratic or Republican – with the goal of securing seats in Congress or the Legislature.

Redistricting is an inherently political process. But the lack of citizen involvement and the self-interest of those conducting the process are a risky combination. It allows representatives to choose their voters rather than the other way around.

The League of Women Voters of Michigan is a partner in the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative, a coalition of groups that believe redistricting must be more transparent and open, with opportunities for the public to be informed and involved.

lwvmi files gerrymandering lawsuit:  december, 2017
DECEMBER 22, 2017. The League of Women Voters of Michigan and 11 individual filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan in federal court in Detroit to end unfair, partisan gerrymandering of Michigan's Congressional, State Senate and State House districts.

"The Michigan League of Women Voters today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of voters throughout Michigan to end the practice of unfair, partisan gerrymandering," said Judy Karandjeff, president of the Michigan League of Women Voters. "Michigan's State House, Senate and Congressional districts are among the worst in the nation when it comes to partisan gerrymandering, and today's lawsuit aims to fix the problem and restore voters' rights to choose who best represents them. For too long, Michigan voters' rights have been harmed as a result of partisan gerrymandering."

The lawsuit was filed against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in federal court, and clearly lays out the problem with partisan gerrymandering in Michigan:
1. Michigan's current electoral maps were drawn in a secretive partisan process with little discussion or debate before being quickly passed through the Legislature.

2. Despite Democrats' regularly winning a majority of the votes in State House, State Senate and Congressional elections, they hold a minority - sometimes a super-minority - of the seats, a direct result of partisan gerrymandering.
3. Objective analysis demonstrates that the current, gerrymandered Michigan districting plans systematically crack and pack Democratic voters.
4. "Ending partisan gerrymandering is critical to preserve our democracy and ensure every vote counts," said Sue Smith, director of the League's Redistricting Program.

The lawsuit asks the federal court to declare the current districts to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders and to ensure that the districts are redrawn

APRIL 25, 2019. A panel of federal district judges ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of Michigan in their First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges to the state and congressional redistricting plans. "Today is a great victory for the voters of Michigan and for our democracy," said Judy Karandjeff, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. "The state will now draw new district lines before the next federal election, which now will better reflect the makeup of the voters - not the interests of the politicians."

The League went to court over the current district maps, drawn in 2011 after the last census. With today's ruling, Michigan will be required to implement new maps in time for the 2020 election and before the next redistricting cycle in 2021. Covering both state and congressional district maps, this case is the only one of its kind in the country. "We presented evidence showing a clear intent by the state legislature to dilute the power of voters and draw themselves into safe districts," said Mark Brewer, an Attorney at Goodman Acker. "With today's decision, new maps will move the state closer to ensuring voters are picking their representatives, not the other way around."

The League of Women Voters of Michigan, along with 11 individual plaintiffs, was represented by Faegre Baker Daniels and Goodman Acker law firms. "This has been a long battle in court, but we are grateful to this panel of judges for hearing out our case until the end and protecting the most vulnerable voters in Michigan," said Jay Yeager, Senior Counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels.

MAY 24, 2019. The U.S. Supreme Court issued this order in our redistricting case. "The application for stay presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted, and it is ordered that the order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, case No. 2:17-CV-14148, entered April 25, 2019, is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of an appeal in this Court or further order of this Court."

JUNE 27, 2019: the U.S. Supreme Court declined to set a standard to rein in partisan gerrymandering. Read the LWVUS press release. As a result, Judy Karandjeff, LWVMIPresident, released the following statement:

"Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision is disappointing and will allow those who rigged Michigan's elections based on partisanship off the hook in federal courts. However, with the new independent redistricting proposal in Michigan that the majority of voters supported in 2018, we look forward to a new system being used in 2021 to draw districts for the next decade.

"The League is very proud of the work done by our League members, expert witnesses and our lawyers in our case and the unanimous victory we had in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The information we discovered about the extent of gerrymandering done in Michigan shows the abuse of power in the process. We look forward to educating voters on the importance of applying for the new redistricting commission.

"The League of Women Voters shined a light on how egregious the gerrymanders in our congressional and legislative districts are and we will continue fighting until every vote counts."  Read the Press Release here 

OCTOBER 21, 2019: The U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned a ruling which had called for nearly three dozen congressional and legislative districts in Michigan to be redrawn because they unfairly helped one political party.  LWVMI President Christina Schlitt stated, "The U.S. Supreme Court decision was expected and is a follow-up to last summer’s decision in the Rucho v. Common Cause case, which stated federal courts didn’t have jurisdiction in partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded it back to the federal district court. The Michigan League of Women Voters continues to support efforts to fully implement the Michigan Redistricting Commission and the voter-approved election reforms that passed in November 2018.”

LEAGUE HOSTS REDISTRICTING EDUCATIONAL EVENTS

Since the fall of 2015, the League of Women Voters of Michigan has delivered over 75 educational presentations in Town Hall formats or group meetings. All the events were free and open to the public. Click here to view the 2018 Power Point presentation that explores how legislative lines are drawn in Michigan, who draws them, and why it is a critically important question for those who care about fair representation. If you represent a group that would like a Redistricting presentation by a League of Women Voters member, please contact the state office AT 517-484-5383.


The press release issued by the League was covered by the Detroit Free Press and the Traverse City Record Eagle. Why redistricting is impotant was also covered by MLive. 

A follow up article on Redistricting and the League's involvement appeared March 14, 2016 in the Detroit Free Press. 


US SUPREME COURT DECISION:  JUNE, 2015

The recent Supreme Court decision that confirmed the constitutionality of an independent redistricting commission sent a clear message that these commissions are tools for voters to make their voices heard.  The current system of redistricting, the process by which new congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn, lets elected officials do so to their liking and to the advantage of their political party. It also increases the power of wealthy special interests so that they are able to further rig the system to their own selfish benefit. This effectively, but disingenuously, ignores the will of the majority of voters who believe in compromise and the ability to work together to build a better Michigan for everyone. Read and listen to the recent news stories concerning this positive development in the redistricting arena:

 

 

LWVMI'S REDISTRICTING POSITION

REDISTRICTING FOR THE STATE LEGISLATURE AND  THE U.S HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

Statement of Position adopted 2012

 

The League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWVMI) supports the formation of an independent redistricting commission in lieu of the legislature as the primary redistricting body.  Such a commission should afford equal representation to the major parties and provide for independent and diverse representation.  This commission should be established through legislation and/or a constitutional amendment. 

 

The LWVMI reaffirms its support for the LWVUS goals of transparency and citizen partnership in the redistricting process.  To implement these goals the following procedures should be used:

 

  • Meetings of the redistricting body should be subject to the Open Meetings Act.

  • Proposed maps should be published in a timely manner, in print, online and on television with an explanation of the rationale involved.

  • A period of at least 30 days following publication of the proposed maps should be allowed for public review and comment.

  • Public hearings should be held at different locations throughout the state.

  • Census data and relevant census software should be made available online.

 

The list is open ended.  Technological and other improvements should be employed as they become available. 

 

The LWVMI supports population as the primary criterion for redistricting.  Other factors of importance are contiguity, maintaining political and geographical boundaries and minority representation.  Additional factors to be considered are communities of interest, competitiveness and compactness.  There should be no preferential treatment for any party and no protection of incumbents.  Redistricting should take place only once a decade following the decennial census.

 

Redistricting Resources

Media Materials


contacts

For more information about redistricting, contact: the League of Women Voters of Michigan, 517-484-5383.