LANSING — A contingent of 15 Detroit Black lawmakers and leaders announced Monday they will sue the Michigan redistricting commission over recently approved state legislative and congressional maps.
In a media event in Detroit, the lawmakers — including six incumbents and two former state representatives — argued the maps dilute the power of Black residents in the city of Detroit and violate the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law designed to allow minorities to elect candidates of their choosing.
“We have to get into this fight and protect generations because representation matters,” state Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, who is one of the plaintiffs, said Monday morning.
“We have to make sure that we get our fair share — if we’re 13 percent of the population, then we need to represent that in the statehouse.”
Nabih Ayad, a Detroit-based attorney representing the lawmakers, told reporters the maps adopted late last month by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission discriminate against Detroit voters.
“Regardless of what the intent or the motive of the 13 commissioners here was, the fact is that the end result is that it strips away the voters and the representatives of those communities, especially in the city of Detroit,” Ayad said.
He added more people would be added to the complaint before it’s filed.
Edward Woods III, spokesperson for the redistricting commission, told Bridge Michigan in an email the panel learned about the alleged lawsuit through media reports.
“We believe in the advice of our Voting Rights Act legal counsel that we comply with the Voting Rights Act,” Woods said.
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was created after voters in 2018 overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that changed how the state drew maps.
Until then, the party in power in the Michigan Legislature was in charge of drawing districts every 10 years after the decennial census.
Michigan is a divided state that leans slightly Democratic, but Republicans for years controlled a disproportionate number of seats in Lansing despite sometimes receiving fewer total statewide votes than Democrats.
The new maps are touted for partisan fairness and giving Democrats a chance to flip both state chambers.
But the maps, which are scheduled to go into effect in 60 days (around the first of March), significantly reduce the number of Black-majority districts in the state.
Monday’s announcement of litigation — which could be the first of several lawsuits — followed months of discontent among Black voters and activists.
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