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Democracy May Be Coming to Michigan

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This could be a big deal in 2020:

A proposal to create an independent redistricting commission will appear on the November ballot, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled late Tuesday in a closely-watched case.

The decision is rife with political implications for Michigan, where Republicans have maintained or grown congressional and legislative advantages since last drawing the state’s political boundaries in 2011.

Volunteers with the Voters Not Politicians committee gathered nearly 400,000 valid signatures to put the anti-gerrymandering plan before voters. On June 20, the Board of State Canvassers certified the group’s petitions.

In a 4-3 decision, the state’s highest court ruled that voter-initiated proposals are permissible if they do not “significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of our government, making it tantamount to creating a new constitution.”

The redistricting proposal “surpasses these hurdles,” Justice David Viviano wrote in the lead opinion. He was joined by fellow Republican appointee Beth Clement and Democratic-nominated Justices Bridget McCormack and Richard Bernstein.

An opposition group bankrolled by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce had urged justices to keep the measure off the November ballot, arguing it was too expansive to be considered a simple amendment to the state constitution.

Attorney General Bill Schuette fought the proposal on similar grounds, calling it the sort of general revision to the Michigan Constitution that could only be ratified through a constitutional convention. Such conventions are are rarely held.

Hmm, I wonder why the Chamber of Commerce fought to hard to preserve an unrepresentative legislature!

Anyway, I’m not sure why Michigan voters would want to undo the earnest efforts of civically-minded officials:

Republican aides suggested ways to contain “Dem garbage” to four congressional districts in southeast Michigan and joked about how one district could be shaped to give “the finger” to a Democratic congressman, according to 2011 emails revealed in a federal lawsuit alleging GOP gerrymandering.

The emails show Republicans “packed and cracked” legislative and congressional district maps to benefit GOP candidates and hurt Democrats, attorneys representing the League of Women Voters argued in a recent court filing.

The full emails provide better context, and one of the emails was from a GOP aide who wasn’t involved in the map redrawing process, a lawyer representing the state told The Detroit News.

In a May 2011 email, Jack Daly, chief of staff for then-U.S. Rep Thaddeus McCotter, told Michigan Chamber of Commerce legal counsel Bob LaBrant and consultant Jeff Timmer that lines should be redrawn to swap some voters in Wayne County with others in West Bloomfield to ensure Democrats are in a “dem district and reps in a gop district” and increase the black population in black districts.

As Mark Lilla has sagely observed, race really has nothing to do with Michigan politics anymore.

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