GOP Seeks to Protect Gerrymandered Maps

A group of Republicans in the state Senate are seeking to intervene in a court case involving Michigan’s gerrymandered districts despite a similar effort had already been vetoed as recently as last month.

State Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) has introduced a resolution – which has no legal binding – to authorize his leader, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), to get lawyers involved in a case brought against the state regarding the constitutionality, or potential lack thereof, of Michigan’s state and congressional district lines last drawn by Republicans in 2011.

In November, Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported Proposal 2 to establish an independent redistricting commission to draw Michigan’s districts by a vote of 61 percent support to roughly 38 percent opposed.

Recently, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson indicated she is trying to settle the lawsuit originally brought against her predecessor, Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (who is now a state senator for the 14th District). If Benson can settle the lawsuit, it opens the door to having districts redrawn for the 2020 election – sooner than the folks behind Proposal 2 had even expected to be the case.

“It is clear the court has found significant evidence of partisan gerrymandering, and the likely outcome would not be favorable to the state,” Benson said in a statement. “It is therefore my responsibility to ensure a fair and equitable resolution for the citizens of Michigan that would save taxpayer money and ensure fair representation.”

Since Benson announced her intent, Republicans moved quickly to try to intervene so a settlement is avoided and they can protect the lines they drew.  Republican attorneys have been hired to represent House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) in the case. Neither were elected officials when the lines were last drawn in 2011, though Miller previously served as the House Committee on Elections and Ethics chair.

If Horn gets his way through Senate Resolution 6, Senate Leader Shirkey will be able to be part of the case too. While the court can grant intervention status on behalf of certain elected officials, it does not have to grant it to all who apply.

In December, Republicans’ power grab attempts included expanding the ability of the legislature to hire legal counsel to protect their interests – a role traditionally reserved for the state’s attorney general to serve on behalf of the state – but Snyder vetoed it.

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who has previously introduced legislation to prevent legislative efforts to influence district lines, was appalled by his Republican colleagues’ attempts. He noted that when the majority GOP had the opportunity to do the fair thing through his proposed legislation, they did nothing (Republicans now claim Benson is too biased to lead on the settlement). In fact, his legislation was referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics – where Miller, now an intervening party in the redistricting case, chaired – and never acted upon.

“For two terms in the state House, I introduced legislation to prevent the Legislature from influencing how our own district lines are drawn. And last November, voters overwhelmingly passed a proposal to prevent the Legislature from influencing how our own district lines are drawn,” Moss said. “The Legislature has no business butting into this federal lawsuit because we shouldn’t be influencing how our own district lines are drawn.”

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson