The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Daunt v. Benson, Nos. 19-2377/2420 recently affirmed a decision allowing Michigan to continue implementing its Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, approved by voter-initiative in 2018. In a case of first impression, the court held that each of the constitutional challenges to the commission was unlikely to succeed on the merits. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 case, Rucho v. Common Cause, in which it acknowledged states’ efforts at addressing redistricting, the Sixth Circuit’s decision could serve as a future guide to others states looking to create their own independent redistricting commissions.
The commission was created after Michigan voters approved Proposal 18-2 in the 2018 election, which amended the Michigan Constitution. The commission is to be comprised of 13 registered voters, four of whom self-identify as Republican, four as Democrat and five as unaffiliated. There are additional restrictions on members. Commissioners must not be or have been a candidate for partisan office in the last six years. Nor can commissioners be elected officials, paid consultants or immediate family members of someone in these and other categories. Commissioners are also prohibited from speaking publicly about the redistricting, outside of open meetings of the commission or when seeking relevant information. The commission will approve redistricting lines after a census, with approval by at least two commissioners affiliated with each party and at least two of the unaffiliated commissioners.
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