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Michigan court won’t extend voting redistricting deadline

July 9, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday denied a request to extend the deadline for drawing new legislative and congressional maps despite a delay in census redistricting data.

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, whose members have been meeting since September 2020, asked the court in April to allow for more time to draw the maps.

The current deadline for an initial proposal is Sept. 17, but the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to have tabulated data ready for the public until Sept. 30. The commission asserts that the census data is necessary to draw fair and lawful maps.

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With its decision, the Supreme Court declined to protect the commission from lawsuits due to any delays. In a statement, justices acknowledged that the commission’s lawyers have already said the commission will operate on a delayed schedule, with or without permission.

The commission was established by voters in 2018 to limit gerrymandering by having randomly selected Michigan residents, representing balanced political alignments, draw voting district boundaries every 10 years instead of the Legislature. The release of census data was delayed from a March 31 deadline because of the pandemic.

The court acknowledged that it believes the commission has been working diligently and through no fault of its own has been put in a difficult position to present fair voting maps, but said there isn’t a sufficient legal reason to preemptively extend the deadline.

Lawyers for the commission and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson have said they will try to propose new maps by Dec. 11 and have them finalized by Jan. 25.

The commission intended on providing a 45-day public comment period between releasing an initial proposal and finalizing the maps, but without the deadline extension the League of Women Voters of Michigan said in a media release Friday that it doubts that will happen.

“The commission must be able to gather public input for the required amount of time so it can ensure the will of the voters is carried out,” League President Christina Schlitt said. “Not allowing time for this critical work is a disservice to voters across the state.”

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.