Detroit lawmakers want special master for new legislative maps
Detroit lawmakers and Michigan's citizen redistricting panel are looking for a path forward after a three-judge panel ruled in December that more than a dozen state House and Senate districts must be redrawn.
Why it matters: The order could affect the presidential primary in February and special elections for the two Democrats who left the Legislature to become mayors, deadlocking the House at 54-54.
- Plaintiffs in the case argue less Black representation in Lansing means less movement on hot-button issues like housing, criminal justice, policing and reparations.
Driving the news: Black lawmakers who have been at odds with the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission want the court to order special elections for affected Senate seats and appoint a special master to redraw the district lines, a possibility raised by the three-judge panel in a separate order.
Zoom in: The maps finalized in 2020 created solidly Democratic districts at the expense of Black majority districts, reducing the number from 17 to less than 10.
- Some boundaries paired low-income neighborhoods with the wealthiest areas in the region, like District 5, stretching from Detroit's west side to Birmingham, or another from Brightmoor to Farmington.
What they're saying: Former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and the group of lawmakers argue splitting Detroit into 22 separate districts with only seven lawmakers living within city limits has disenfranchised Black voters.
- "We can't as Democrats point fingers at the other party when we feel like they are playing unfair and then use opportunities like this to take advantage of a demographic that has been the bridge to many of the victories that the Democratic Party has had," Gay-Dagnogo, a plaintiff in the case, tells Axios. "Splintering us throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne — anyone with common sense knows that that is wrong."
- "It's really damning what took place by this commission that was supposed to be an independent body, the lack of respect shown to Detroit … they were told to ignore the outcry from Detroit."
Between the lines: While Detroit lawmakers celebrated the decision last week, so did state Republicans who had made their own objections to the maps established by Michigan's first-ever Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission two years ago.
- The three judges in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, were all appointed by former President George W. Bush.
What's next: Parties return to court Friday in Kalamazoo, where plaintiffs are hoping the court will agree to appoint a special master after several redistricting commissioners resigned last month.
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