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Michigan Supreme Court denies bid to extend redistricting deadline

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will not give more time for a commission created to draw the state’s new political maps.

Tired of politicians drawing maps for Congressional seats and legislative districts, Michigan voters in 2018 decided to hand the job over to an independent commission.

But the job of drawing those maps has been complicated by the fact the U.S. Census Bureauwill be about six months late delivering key data. Originally expected in April, the state’s demographic data is now not expected until September. Thecensus bureaublames the delay on several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, and wildfires. 

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and Michigan’s Secretary of State’s office asked for an extension.

But state’s highest court Friday said no.

While saying it was a “sensible decision” to alert the court about the disruption to the redistricting process, the Michigan Supreme Court says it is declining “to clothe the commission....with any lawsuit-proof vest.”

So instead of getting an extension until mid-January to complete its work, the commission will need to be done by its constitutionally required November 1 deadline. 

Commission spokesman Edward Woods says the MICRC’s mission “to have fair and transparent maps” continues. “The court’s decision has not changed that,” says Woods. 

A spokeswoman says the Michigan Secretary of State office “will continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that citizens’ voices are the driving force behind the redistricting efforts.”

The Michigan Republican Party opposed the effort to give the MICRC more time to come up with redraw legislative and congressional district maps.

“The redistricting commission has ample time and resources necessary to complete their task and this request of the Court was unnecessary,” said Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser. “The Supreme Court's decision is a huge win for the rule of law and the people of Michigan."

Weiser accuses Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of ignoring the rule of law and unilaterally acting on her own to tip the scales for her liberal allies. 

The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision will likely not be the final word.  

Observers expect when the commission delivers its newly drawn districts there will be lawsuits filed challenging them. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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