Michigan Republicans have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) is “blatantly unconstitutional.”
The amendment approved with 61 percent of the vote last November prohibits any “partisan candidate” in the previous six years from serving on the MICRC, a committee of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five citizens who will try to end partisan gerrymandering.
"Partisan candidates" include elected officials, political appointees, lobbyists, campaign consultants and officers or members of the governing body of a political party, or their immediate family.
“No American should be barred from holding a government position because they, or someone they are related to, exercised their Constitutional rights,” Walker said in a statement released by his group, the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “This lawsuit aims to restore the rights of all Michiganders to freely participate in the political process without the threat of government sanction.”
Jamie Lyons-Eddy, director of campaigns and programs for Voters Not Politicians (VNP), told The Center Square that the exclusions are meant to discourage mixed financial motives.
“For example, if you had someone on the commission who was, let’s say, the spouse of a sitting legislator, they would have a direct interest in how those lines are drawn to try to hold on to their spouse’s job,” she said. “So it’s important to remove the conflict of interest that has caused the gerrymandering we’ve had in the past.”
Lyons-Eddy said about 4,000 volunteers gathered 425,000 signatures across the political spectrum in four months after constituents saw maps showing each location’s gerrymandered districts.
“There’s not as much competition, and we don’t have responsive representatives because they already know how the races are going to come out,” she said. “We’ve all seen it – it’s not really one party that suffers, it’s all parties because the representatives don’t listen to their constituents from either party.”
The group gathered 109,346 more signatures than required.
“The point of our name, Voters Not Politicians, is that voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around,” she said. “In gerrymandering, politicians are choosing their own voters and actually changing the outcome of elections. And people understood that pretty clearly.”
Lyons-Eddy said the politicians and special-interest groups that have drawn past maps operated behind closed doors, but the new process will be “completely transparent.”
“The amendment calls specifically for all of the work and business the commission does to be conducted in public – so all of their meetings, data, everything they do will be posted publicly. It’s required to be really completely transparent, turning the old process on its head. So that everybody in Michigan who has an interest can see exactly how the process is happening.”
The complaint seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction halting the MICRC from further action.
Lyons-Eddy said VNP is preparing their applicant pool for 2020.
“We are confident that the amendment will survive this challenge – it already survived one challenge in the Michigan Supreme Court before we got on the ballot, and we’re confident that will happen again,” she said.