Michigan Conservatives Ask Court To Allow Them To Keep Gerrymandering

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP

Despite a resounding court defeat last week, a Michigan business group is asking the state’s top court to block a sweeping gerrymandering reform initiative from getting on the November ballot.

And thanks in part to the business group’s largesse in judicial races, there’s reason to think it could yet succeed in killing the reform measure.

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, on Monday filed a request with the state Supreme Court for immediate consideration of its complaint.

The move comes days after the state’s Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that the initiative meets the legal requirements to get on the ballot, and that the CPMC complaint was “without merit.”

The reform measure would take map-drawing responsibilities for congressional and state legislative districts away from the state legislature, which for twenty years has been controlled by Republicans. That has consistently allowed the GOP, which opposes the reform initiative, to win many more seats than its vote share deserves. For instance, in 2012, the GOP won just 45.6 percent of the vote in congressional races, but came away with 9 out of 14 seats.

Maps would instead be drawn by a citizens’ commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly selected by the secretary of state. They would have to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and avoid granting any one political party “disproportionate advantage.”

The measure’s fate now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, which has a five to two Republican majority. As Bridge Magazine reported in a detailed investigation, two of the Republican judges up for election this year have received $15,000 each from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce — the same group that has pumped $185,000 into challenging the redistricting measure. The judges, Kurtis Wilder and Elizabeth Clement, also held a joint fundraiser at the Chamber’s headquarters in April. Neither judge has given any indication that they’ll recuse themselves from the redistricting reform case.

The grassroots group behind the reform initiative, Voters Not Politicians, says the new appeal is an attempt to block the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

“Our legal team will be vigorously opposing the latest effort by pro-gerrymandering groups to prevent the Voters Not Politicians proposal from appearing on the November ballot,” Voters Not Politicians executive director Katie Fahey said in a statement. “More than 400,000 registered voters signed petitions supporting a constitutional amendment to establish a fair, independent and transparent citizens redistricting commission to draw district boundaries without political or partisan bias. They deserve to have their voices heard.”

This post has been updated.

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