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Federal judges approve redraw of Detroit-area state House seats ahead of 2024 election

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
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U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.

The new map will create three majority-black districts, whereas before there were none

New boundaries for Detroit-area seats in the Legislature were approved Wednesday by a three-judge panel that had previously ordered them redrawn after finding the old map was illegally influenced by race.

The newly approved state House map will be in place for a November election in which the balance of power in the chamber will be at stake. None of the Detroit-area House Democratic incumbents share a district under the new map, avoiding potential primary conflicts.

The three-judge federal appeals court panel had ordered in December that the seven state House districts have their boundaries redrawn for the 2024 election after it was determined that race influenced how they were drawn in 2021. Although nearly 80% of Detroit residents are Black, the panel said that the Black voting age population in the 13 Detroit-area districts mostly ranges from 35% to 45%, with one being as low as 19%.

A redistricting commission responsible for redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional maps in 2021 was tasked with drafting a new state House map in the first months of the year before a public hearing process began to gather feedback. The commission submitted the new map in early March, and the three-judge panel had until March 29 to approve it.

While the panel only requested seven seats redrawn, the boundaries of 15 state House seats were altered to accommodate the new districts.

The original lawsuit contesting the Detroit-area seats was filed by a group of Black residents who argued that the map diluted their voting power. The group had similarly opposed the newly submitted map, saying it favors incumbents elected under the previous map and doesn't include enough majority-black districts.

The three-judge panel disagreed in its approval of the map and pointed to the fact that the new “plan created three majority-black districts, whereas before there were none.”

“Federal law provides us no basis to reject the Commission’s remedial House plan,” the panel wrote in an 11-page decision released Wednesday.

Six state Senate districts will still need to be redrawn by a later deadline due to senators’ terms not expiring until 2026.

Michigan Democrats flipped both the state House and Senate in 2022 while retaining the governor’s office, giving them full control of state government for the first time in 40 years. The party’s success was attributed, in part, to legislative maps that were redrawn in 2021 by the state's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

State lawmakers drew the boundaries for Michigan’s seats in Congress and the Legislature until voters in 2018 created an independent commission to handle the once-a-decade job. The commission’s first maps were produced for the 2022 election.

Michigan's entire state House will be up for reelection in 2024, and Democrats will likely be attempting to preserve a slim majority. The chamber is currently deadlocked after two Democrats vacated their seats after winning mayoral races, and special elections in the heavily Democratic districts are set for April 16.

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