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Judges say gerrymandering lawsuit can go to trial

Judge's gavel with books

A federal lawsuit accusing the state of Michigan of unfair gerrymandering can go to trial.

The judges on the U.S. District Court panel said the League of Women Voters and several Democrats in the lawsuit have a case.

The lawsuit is against the Republican Secretary of State’s office – that’s the office in charge of overseeing Michigan’s elections. It accuses the state of allowing gerrymandered political districts that unfairly help Republicans.

In the court opinion, Judge Eric Clay pointed out emails unearthed during the proceeding where mapmakers talk about packing so-called “Dem garbage” in certain districts to let Republicans get more territory.

Clay wrote, “Emails that the mapmakers exchanged illustrate the profound extent to which partisan political considerations played into their redistricting efforts.”

The court further said that those partisan efforts were successful.

The state tried to have the case dismissed. It said there wasn’t a real injury. But the court said that voter dilution is an injury to the League and other plaintiffs.

Mark Brewer is one of the attorneys for the League of Women voters and the Democratic voters in the lawsuit.

“This is a great victory for all the voters of Michigan. Now in February, at the trial, we’re going to have a chance to present all of our evidence about how the Congressional, Senate, and House districts are gerrymandered,” he said. “If we prevail at trial, it’ll mean new, fairer districts in time for the 2020 elections in Congress, the state Senate, for the state House.”

The trial is scheduled for February in front of a three-judge panel. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said they are not commenting at this time.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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