On Thursday, a three-judge panel ruled that 34 electoral districts in Michigan are unconstitutional and must be redrawn for the 2020 election, according to The Guardian. The districts were drawn by Republican members of the state legislature in 2011. The judges’ ruling will require the state to hold special elections in 2020 rather than in 2022.
The panel ruled that 34 congressional districts, out of the state’s total of 162, violate the constitutional rights of Democratic voters. The legislature, which is still controlled by Republicans, will have until August 1st to submit new maps.
In their decision, the panel condemned the partisan gerrymandering they found.
“[Republican lawmarkers] primary goal was to draw maps that advantaged Republicans, disadvantaged Democrats and ensured that Republicans could enjoy durable majorities in Michigan’s congressional delegation and in both chambers of the Michigan legislature for the entire decade,” the judges wrote.
It’s likely that the decision will be appealed.
Republicans have responded to the lawsuit, which was brought by the League of Women Voters of Michigan, by referring to other similar suits that will soon be decided by the Supreme Court, arguing that Michigan should wait to act until those cases are settled.
Gerrymandering has become an issue across the country since the 2018 midterms, when several states voted for redistricting. Missouri, for example, voted overwhelmingly for redistricting by a nonpartisan commission. Now Republicans in the state are attempting to undo the initiative. Utah also passed a ballot measure that would create an independent redistricting commission, and, just like in Missouri, Republicans are pushing back on it.
In North Carolina, things are even more dire. Districts in the state have been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional, and a case regarding what to do is now at the Supreme Court. That case could set important precedents about gerrymandering across the U.S. We still don’t know what’s going to happen.
That’s why this Michigan decision matters. It may not change the bigger picture, but at least it’s an indication that some judges in lower courts are willing to stand up for the right to representation.