By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Several groups announced Friday they would file a lawsuit challenging 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, which will be filed in Michigan’s Supreme Court early next week, will be the third to block congressional or legislative plans created by a new independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission.
“The purpose of passing Proposition 2 was to get rid of gerrymandering and ensure fair cards,” 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 as these cards will influence our elections for the next 10 years.”
Other plaintiffs include the community organizing group Detroit Action, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, the National Network for Arab American Communities, and organizations and individuals who have yet to be named.
The 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment that created the panel states that districts “shall not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party.” It is the fourth ranked criterion, behind requirements such as compliance with federal voting rights law 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 new House districts: the efficiency gap (4.3% ), unbalanced margins (5.3%) and mean median. difference (2.7%). A fourth measure, however, indicates that the party that wins the most votes statewide would control the majority in the House.
That often hasn’t happened over the past decade under the maps drawn by the GOP-led legislature. In 2014, for example, Democratic House candidates won the overall bipartisan statewide vote, 51% to 49%, but Republicans secured a 63-47 advantage in the House. The chamber has been in Republican hands since 2011 despite big years for leading Democrats, including Barack Obama and Gretchen Whitmer.
“If partisan fairness is not achieved, our communities will continue to face representatives with outsized influence, policies even further removed from our needs, and elected officials who are disconnected from our communities,” said Branden Snyder, co-executive director of Detroit Action.
The groups’ attorney, Mark Brewer, said the suit will ask judges to order the commissioners to adopt a new plan.
“The commission’s own lawyer told them that they should strive to reduce partisan fairness measures to zero. The alternate card we’ll drop next week shows they could have done better,” he said.
A message seeking comment was left for the panel spokesperson.
Last week, Republicans filed a lawsuit to block the US House map, alleging it is uncompact and splits municipal boundaries too much. Black lawmakers previously filed suit against the plans in Congress, the state House and the state Senate, saying they hurt the ability of black voters to elect African-American candidates.
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