LANSING, Mich. — While Michigan's new political maps make districts more competitive, they eliminate several majority-Black districts and could soon face legal challenges.
An analysis by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) found the newly approved U.S. House map "Chestnut" results in the loss of two majority-Black congressional districts — leaving none.
The new state Senate map "Linden" cuts down from the current four majority black districts to zero, and the state House map, which currently has 12 majority-Black districts, will drop to six with the new map "Hickory"
"Each of these communities of interest could be denied the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice if the present percentages of majority-minority districts are diluted," reads part of the analysis.
MCDR Commissioners passed a resolution last month asking the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to consider their input, while also arguing the proposals could violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The Michigan Civil Rights Commission urges the MICRC to take all necessary reaction to ensure that there is no minority-vote dilution and/or violations of the Voting Rights Act,” said MDCR Vice Chair Zenna Faraj Elhasan, during the meeting.
But redistricting commissioners passed three of those proposed maps anyway, defending their legality in a press conference Tuesday night.
“Sure, they're going to people, people that are going to be disappointed,” one commissioner said. “But we certainly gave them a lot of information on how we did it and how we arrived at what we arrived at.”
Regardless, some groups are considering filing a suit in an effort to get them changed.
In a statement, Jonanthan Kinloch, Chair of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party said his organization was in discussion to retain an attorney, calling the congressional map a "serious step backward, limiting the voice of African Americans and that is unacceptable."
John E. Johnson Jr., the head of the MCDR, says all three maps dilute minority voting strength, adding:
“It is deeply concerning that a public body in 2021, despite overwhelming input from experts, academics and the citizens who will be directly impacted by their decisions, endorsed maps that do not meet this vital legal and ethical test. The commission will review this outcome and consider what next steps it will take."
The Michigan Republican party also hinted at potential litigation but didn't precisely say what about, saying in part, “We are evaluating all options.”
We'll keep you updated if any challenges are pursued. In the meantime if no challenges are pursued, these maps will be adopted and be in place for the next 10 years, beginning next election.