Michigan voters this fall will get to decide whether to change how their state’s congressional and legislative districts are drawn, the state Supreme Court ruled late Tuesday. In a 4-3 decision, the justices rejected a lawsuit challenging an anti-gerrymandering ballot measure, meaning it will go to a statewide vote in November. The constitutional amendment, if approved, would entrust redistricting to an independent commission instead of the Legislature and governor. It is a bid to stop partisan gerrymandering, the process of a political party drawing electoral maps to maintain or expand its hold on power. Michigan Republicans controlled redistricting after the 2010 and 2000 censuses. They have nine of Michigan’s 14 U.S. House districts and hold 27-10 and 63-46 majorities in the state Senate and state House, respectively.
The suit was filed by a business-backed group that contended the ballot measure was too broad and that such changes instead should be decided at a rarely held constitutional convention.
But a majority of the high court — which is controlled 5-2 by Republican nominees or appointees — ruled that the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment organized by ballot committee Voters Not Politicians is permissible because it would “not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government” nor “propose changes creating the equivalent of a new constitution.” Justices David Viviano, Bridget McCormack, Richard Bernstein and Elizabeth Clement, in an opinion written by Viviano, affirmed a state appeals court decision that had ordered the proposal on the ballot.
Under the initiative, a commission of citizens who meet certain qualifications would handle redistricting. There would be four Democrats, four Republicans and five members with no affiliation with either major party. The panel would be prohibited from providing a “disproportionate advantage” to a political party, using “accepted measures of partisan fairness.”