Redistricting commission’s proposed maps violate Voting Rights Act, Michigan civil rights department says


Protesters rally against Michigan redistricting commission - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Protesters rally against Michigan redistricting commission

Less than two weeks before Michigan’s redistricting commission is expected to approve the next decade of new voting districts, the state’s civil rights department declared that the proposed maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Jerome Reide, legislative liaison for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, came to the conclusion after analyzing the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission's five proposed congressional district maps, none of which are predominately Black.

There are currently two majority Black congressional districts — the 13th and 14th.

“The maps under consideration do not measure up to the requirements of the law, and do not meet the test of fairness and equity that should be the goal of this Commission,” Reide said in a statement. “The Commission still has time to produce maps that will not dilute the minority vote or violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Reide also noted that most of the proposed maps would eliminate all four of the majority-Black districts in the state Senate.

Without a majority Black district, votes will be disenfranchised in cities such as Detroit, Southfield, Taylor, Inkster, Redford, Hamtramck, Saginaw, and Flint, he said.

Fair representation is important to address issues that have historically been impacted by discrimination, such as schools and access to clean water, Reide said, pointing to the Flint water crisis as an example.

The Voting Rights Act requires equal opportunity for minority voters to elect representatives of their choice. Opponents of the new districts argue that Michigan voters tend to vote for people who look like them, so fewer Black lawmakers would be elected under the new boundaries that are all majority white.

“The Commission has a profound responsibility to draw electoral boundaries that protect the voting rights of all Michigan voters,” MDCR Executive Director John E. Johnson, Jr. said “They must reject these flawed maps and offer options that do not erode the ability of minority voters to elect candidates who both look like them and reflect their policy preferences regarding the needs of their communities.”

The proposed districts have also drawn criticism from activists and Black lawmakers, who are calling on the commission to drew new maps.

The commission is expected to vote on adopting the proposed maps on Dec. 30.

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