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Court lays out redistricting timeline for maps ruled unconstitutional

justice lawyer / judge gavel working with legal documents in a court room
mojo_cp - stock.adobe.com
justice lawyer / judge gavel working with legal documents in a court room

Seven Michigan state House districts that were declared unconstitutional could see new district lines approved by late March.

Last month, a federal court struck down the current maps for House Districts 1, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 14, along with a handful of state Senate districts as well, ruling that they were unconstitutionally drawn because they were based predominantly on race.

Michigan’s redistricting commission is appealing the decision and has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the ruling.

But, in the meantime, the commission must proceed with the re-draw.

The lower court is giving Michigan’s redistricting commission until February 2 to submit new maps for a three-week public comment period. That’s less than half as much time as the 45 days to comment required under the state constitution.

At a meeting Thursday, the commission scheduled a handful of days to work on new maps.

Time is of the essence. Especially for election officials to get things finalized in time to run an August primary. The court noted those concerns in its order detailing the timeline.

“At the January 5 hearing, the Michigan Secretary of State (through counsel) informed us that she has 'very little time' to take the actions necessary to implement new districting maps ahead of the candidate-filing deadline imposed by state law. That deadline is April 23, 2024,” the court wrote.

Any new plan must be submitted to the court by March, when a court-appointed expert will review it to see if it complies with the constitution. The order names University of California Irvine Professor Bernard Grofman as that special master.

Because of the time crunch, the court is also planning to bring on a second expert to draw backup maps for consideration if the commission doesn’t meet deadlines. The court plans for that to be Michael Barber, a professor at Bringham Young University.

The court set a March 29 deadline to approve a new House districting plan.

Meanwhile, both sides of the lawsuit that struck down the districts must meet and discuss a timeline for fixing the affected Senate maps by April 12.

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public. To see more, visit Michigan Public.