Commission urges court to dismiss redistricting challenge | Michigan News

By ED WHITE, Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — A lawyer for the Michigan Redistricting Commission on Wednesday defended new maps for seats in Congress and the Legislature and urged the state Supreme Court to dismiss a challenge filed by black lawmakers .

The lawsuit seeks to have some boundaries redrawn because the maps reduce the number of seats where black residents make up the majority of the voting-age population.

But electoral rights expert Katherine McKnight said the proposed solution becomes a “danger” by concentrating minority voting power in fewer constituencies.

“There are a number of constituencies where the minority community has the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, even though the minority population of voting age is lower than that of the majority. … The minority community has greater influence in more districts in the adopted plan,” McKnight said.

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Detroit, where blacks make up about 80% of the population, had five state senate districts under the previous map. It will be part of eight districts under the new map with the seats also including areas of Oakland and Macomb counties.

A lawyer for the challengers, Nabih Ayad, said he did not need to show a discriminatory intent, only a discriminatory result.

“It will be almost impossible for these African-American candidates to win,” he said.

But McKnight said the plaintiffs could not meet key conditions, under a 1986 US Supreme Court voting rights ruling, to move their case forward.

The lawsuit challenges the work of a 13-member commission that was set up by voters to take mapping out of the hands of politicians. More than 130 hearings were opened to the public before the new boundaries were approved in December.

Maps show veteran politicians and newcomers scrambling to watch new lines and consider running for office.

They are created every ten years after the federal census takes population gains or losses into account. Only one current justice, Brian Zahra, sat on the Supreme Court during the last redistricting process, but a card battle did not reach the court.

A lot of the questions were about whether to give challengers time – and possibly money – to develop a deeper analysis of the cards and their impact.

“We are in uncharted territory when it comes to our authority. … We are figuring that out too. We want to make sure we’re doing it right,” Judge Megan Cavanagh said.

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