Michigan Voting Maps Being Redrawn Over Racism Claims

Michigan lawmakers must redraw state election maps after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a plea to overturn an order to change the voting boundaries.

Plaintiffs charged that Black political strength in the Detroit area was diluted in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel in November determined that certain districts as drawn were unconstitutional.

The state filed an appeal on Jan. 4, but on Monday the nation’s high court refused to issue a stay. This means it will be back to the drawing board for Michigan legislators to produce electoral districts that are favored by Democrats.

Litigants believe lines were created to diminish the number of Black voters in several Detroit areas. The Michigan Independent CItizens Redistricting Commission was accused of using race as the primary factor in determining district boundaries.

Now that same commission is forced to redraw the maps to strengthen Black representation.

The original Detroit-area districts contained a voting-age Black population of 35-45%, with critics noting that one was as low as 19%. This was achieved despite the area’s residents being 80% Black.

An earlier filing against the districts was dismissed due to lack of evidence, but the latest action, which originated in August 2023, gained traction. However, the Secretary of State’s response that the order to redraw maps threatened this year’s primary election set for late summer fell on deaf ears.

Now, seven state House districts that see voting this year are to be satisfactorily redrawn by election time. Six state Senate districts are not up for reelection until 2026, so a later deadline was set for them to be reconfigured.

A draft map is to be completed by Feb. 2 with the final deadline set for March 29.

The result will likely be a set of Detroit area districts that are dominated by Democrats. David Dulio, a political science professor at Michigan’s Oakland University, noted there will likely be a spillover effect in the city’s suburbs.

Dulio explained, “You could see these districts, or even a subset of them, really be where the fight for control of the state House is.”

Michigan Democrats have full control of the state government for the first time in four decades after flipping the House and Senate in 2022. Many in the party believe their success was due in part to maps redrawn by the commission.

But complaints arose when the number of Black lawmakers in the state legislature fell from 20 to 17.

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