Michigan Supreme Court denies redistribution commission request for more time to redraw political maps

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LANSING, MI – The Michigan Supreme Court has denied the Independent Citizen Redistribution Committee’s request for an extension of the deadline to draw new political maps of the state.

The commission made the request due to the delayed release of full 2020 census data.

In one order Released Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that an extension of the deadline to December was “unwarranted”, leaving commissioners to rely on preliminary census data.

The 13-member Redistribution Commission, formed by a successful voting initiative in 2018, remains constitutionally obligated to redraw the political district maps of Congress, State House, and State Senate based on several factors, including the latest US Census data as of November 1.

The US Census Bureau, citing delays related to the pandemic, announced in February that full redistribution data will not be made available to states until. September 30, 2021.

“But in order to draw plans, the Commission must have the 2020 census data from the federal government,” the commission wrote in the petition.

The state constitution requires the commission to establish a formal redistribution plan by November 1, 2021. However, the plan must be made available to the public for comment for 45 days, which means the commission must have proposed plans available to the public before September 17.

The petition argued that the commission should wait until it can use all of the data from the 2020 census to “ensure that fair maps are drawn” and to “protect adopted plans from challenges based on the Commission’s inability to respect the constitutional calendar ”.

The court recognized the challenge facing the commission and pointed out that under federal law, tabulated data from the decennial census should have been completed, reported and transmitted by April 1, 2021.

However, she was not persuaded to grant the requested additional time.

“By our decision today, we have declined the invitation to put on the commission or the secretary of state in a bulletproof vest,” wrote Justice Elizabeth Welch.

“The risk of future legal action – however likely and inconvenient to the ongoing work of the commission – is not a sufficient reason to justify the requested relief,” she said.

The decision is not “a reflection on the merits of the questions asked or on how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar questions”, but only indicates that a majority of the court believes that the additional delay is not justified, according to the ordinance.

At a recent hearing into the case, lawyers representing the commission proposed a new deadline of December 11 for the publication of draft redistricting maps and a deadline of January 25, 2022 for adopting new maps after. public comments, arguing that the unprecedented situation means that the commission has won not able to honor the constitutional deadline.

Some judges questioned the value of asking for an extension of the deadline before the deadline was passed, and opposition lawyers argued that it was necessary to wait until December, when members could theoretically use preliminary census data scheduled for publication in mid-August.

The commissioners have expressed concern that the public will have enough time to review the maps before adopting a final plan, and also hope to reject any legal challenges arguing that the maps they are proposing are unconstitutional due to the missed deadline, according to Julianne. Pastula, the commission’s general counsel.

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