Michigan progressives challenge Obama-backed redistricting commission

Michigan lawmakers are suing a redistricting commission over new maps created in response to the latest census numbers.

Despite earning the support of former President Barack Obama, critics say the districts as drawn in these maps would unfairly weaken the Black vote.

“Took politics out of the redistricting process”

The essence of the complaint is that the new maps, which remain in effect for a decade, will reduce the number of Black-majority districts.

Of course, Obama supported the commission as an adequate response to allegations of GOP gerrymandering.

The former president offered his stance in a tweet linking to an article about the commission, writing: “If you’re feeling discouraged about our democracy, read this article about how citizens in Michigan took politics out of the redistricting process.”

Notably, the commission was tasked with responding to complaints that Black voters in Detroit had been consolidated into a handful of districts. That response, critics say, has served to spread the Black vote too thin.

Aside from these concerns, many pundits insist that the commission’s maps are actually favorable to the Democratic Party and litigants argue they violate the Voting Rights Act.

“Detroit deserves to have Black leadership”

“Don’t leave us out in the rain because you simply want a majority,” said former Democratic state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo.

For their part, commissioners assert that they carefully abided by the letter of the Voting Rights Act and noted that Black voters do not have to represent a majority in a district to be fairly represented. Gay-Dagnogo and others, however, continue to denounce the new maps.

“We could potentially have people representing our community that don’t have the commitment to our city,” she said. “Detroit deserves to have Black leadership.”

The current intraparty dispute highlights an underlying push for progressive election-related reforms. Among the recent examples is the ramped-up pressure to kill the Senate filibuster, thus paving the way for partisan policies to make their way through the legislative process.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) signaled his intention to vote on the filibuster by Jan. 17, asserting: “We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us.”

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