A federal court in Michigan on Thursday delivered a major victory to Democrats, striking down the state’s district maps for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
The lawsuit, filed late last year by the League of Women Voters on behalf of eleven Democratic voters, alleged that the state’s legislative and congressional maps violated their constitutional rights.
On Thursday, a panel of three judges in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan agreed with the plaintiffs.
The judges found that the district maps violated voters’ First Amendment rights and the constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
“Today, this Court joins the growing chorus of federal courts that have, in recent years, held that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional,” the court said in its ruling. “We find that the Enacted Plan violates the Plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because it deliberately dilutes the power of their vote by placing them in districts that were intentionally drawn to ensure a particular partisan outcome in each district.”
The Hill reports:
The court cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters, and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking.
The judges’ order that the districts be redrawn before the 2020 election will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, out of North Carolina and Maryland, and may issue a stay on the Michigan decision until those cases are resolved. Michigan’s current district lines were drawn in 2011 by the Republican-controlled state legislature, with the help of Republican operatives.
The League of Women Voters pointed to recent election results that gave Republicans a disproportionate hold over a number of legislative and congressional seats in Michigan, even though they won only about half the number of total votes cast.
The judges agreed with the League’s argument.
“The evidence points to only one conclusion: partisan considerations played a central role in every aspect of the redistricting process,” the decision states.