Bill Schuette

photo: WWJ/Mike Campbell

Schuette Challenging Anti-Gerrymandering Ballot Measure

The measure is being challenged by Attorney General Bill Schuette and conservative activists.

July 21, 2018 - 2:53 pm

(WWJ) -- The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether an anti-gerrymandering ballot proposal should be considered by state voters this fall.

The ballot measure - which garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures - seeks to allow an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative district lines, as opposed to by the Legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans.

The measure is being challenged by Attorney General Bill Schuette and conservative activists. The argument centers around what is or isn't an amendment to the state constitution.

Sam Levine reports on voting rights cases for the Huffington Post. He says one of the biggest reasons why people want to change the way district lines are drawn in the state is to avoid political parties taking advantage of the districts.

“One analysis that was done at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU describes Michigan as one of the most severely gerrymandered states for partisan gain in the country," Levine told WWJ. "Republicans controlled the re-districting process there in 2011 and they have benefitted, there’s no question, from the way that lines are drawn.”

Levine said the Brennan Center analysis estimates that partisan gerrymandering in Michigan is responsible for two to three additional Republican seats in congress. 

"So if the lines were drawn more fairly, there could be two to three fewer Republicans in congress, according to this Brennan Center analysis,” Levine said.

As for which way the court is leaning, Levine says it was difficult to tell since three justices didn't speak at all.

“I think one thing that’s significant is that the Supreme Court already has had a chance to weigh in," Levine said. "They could have stepped in and blocked the board of canvassers from certifying this and putting it on the ballot by issuing what’s called a stay and the Supreme Court declined to do that.”

The proposal was approved for the ballot in June and would create an agency that oversees districting. But a group affiliated with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce appealed to the high court, which has five Republican justices, as opposed to two Democrats.

The proposal seeks to form a commission of citizens to handle redistricting and they would have meet certain qualifications to be on the commission. There would be four Democrats, four Republicans and five members with no affiliation with either major party. The panel would not be allowed to create a "disproportionate advantage" to any political party.