MI Civil Rights Commission: Proposed redistricting maps could violate Voting Rights Act

Posted at 5:42 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 05:42:55-04

Public input on Michigan's draft political maps continues on Thursday, this time in Lansing for the second of five public hearings.

It comes after major concern following the first public hearing in Detroit on Wednesday.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission believes the maps presented by the commission violate federal civil rights laws.

The Civil Rights Director John Johnson Jr. called out the Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission for its 10 draft maps, which it is seeking public input on. Johnson said if approved, they believed the maps would violate the Voting Rights Act.

"They dilute majority-minority districts and strip the ability for minority voters to elect legislators who reflect their community," Johnson Jr. said.

That's strong criticism for the 10 draft maps currently on the table for the first-ever redistricting commission, tasking with re-mapping Michigan's political boundaries for the next 10 years.

Dozens of people were at the TCF Center on Wednesday, using their 90 seconds of time to point out what they feel is a glaring shortcoming in the maps.

"I am completely disillusioned with this process," one person said.

The Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to eliminate discriminatory practices, particularly in the Jim Crow south that kept millions of Black Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

Historically, one way to remedy violations of the act has been to establish majority-minority voting districts.

Currently, Michigan has 17 majority Black voting districts. In the proposed maps unveiled last week, only one district would have a voting-age population of more than 50% of people who are Black.

"If you approve any of your maps we believe you will be violating both federal statutory and case law," Johnson Jr. said.

One of the commissioners pushed back, saying the current maps give Black citizens in Detroit the opportunity to elect in every district.

After five public hearings, the commission will vote on drafted maps on Nov. 5 and formally adopt them sometime in December.